Charlotte Josephine: ‘I don’t want to be polite’

Charlotte Josephine's BITCH BOXER. Photo: Alex Brenner

Ahead of showcasing new work for the Women Centre Stage Festival at the National Theatre, award-winning writer-performer Charlotte Josephine talks about writing, boxing, and why there’s still a powerful need for better female roles in theatre.

I love theatre but I’m bored of the roles I’m supposed to play. The majority of parts written for women are shit compared to what the lads get to do. Why can’t I have sword fights and car chases, brilliantly witty arguments and meaty speeches that challenge me?

I want to work hard. I want to sweat. I don’t want to pretend or be pretty or be polite. I want it to be difficult, the audience deserves it, God knows they’ve paid enough for a ticket.

I started writing monologues to use in auditions because I couldn’t find any that excited me. I would lie to the panel and get a little secret kick out of watching them pretend to know my made-up playwright, which always eased some of those please-pick-me nerves.

My play Bitch Boxer was born from a bit of banter in a coffee shop store cupboard. A bloke who worked in an office nearby saw me lugging heavy boxes and made a comment about how I didn’t look very ‘ladylike’. Why is it women have to hide their strength? Their aggression? Their passion? I am more than capable of lugging heavy boxes, of performing sword fights, of delivering meaty speeches.

Bitch Boxer introduced me to the world of boxing. I started training for research while writing and fell in love with the sport. I now proudly box for Islington Boxing Club, having currently won five out of my six fights. It’s a joy to watch the success of women boxers like Nicola Adams, Katie Taylor and Savannah Marshall slowly wake people up to the bullshit stereotypes we paint on each other.

I couldn’t wait to work with Sphinx Theatre and the Women Centre Stage Festival. The play I’ve written for the Festival, Boys Will Be Boys, is about revenge porn, which thank God is finally being made a criminal offence. Our society is so inherently patriarchal, gender inequality is endemic and needs to be addressed at a much younger age. I am sick of the constant barrage of images I see on a daily basis showing me an apparently ideal image of what I, as a woman, am supposed to be. It’s so damaging for all of us, both men and woman, to see such derogatory images.

Teaching boys that in order to ‘be a man’ they need to use violence in order to get all the ‘bitches, cars and money’ is so harmful for them. But consider being the ‘bitch’. What fucking message is that? When I grow up I want to be his bitch? No thanks. Feminism is no longer a dirty word, things are slowly changing, a little too slowly for my impatient bones but we’ll get there.

I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Women Centre Stage Festival, the other writers are brilliant and I feel lucky to be working alongside them. Better go polish my sword.

Catch a first look at Charlotte’s new play Boys Will Be Boys on Saturday 28th March, 5.30pm at the National Theatre alongside three other new works by rising playwrights, part of the Women Centre Stage Festival. Info & booking at: http://www.womencentrestage.co.uk/shows/event/6-sphinx-writers-group-future-voices.

About the author: Charlotte Josephine is an actor and writer. One third of Snuff Box Theatre, she wrote and performed the multi-award winning Bitch Boxer at the Edinburgh Festival, Soho Theatre & on international tour. Charlotte played Lucis in the Donmar Warehouse’s all-female Julius Caesar and was a company member in the Lyric Hammersmith's Secret Theatre. She is currently one of Soho Theatre’s Soho Six, is an artistic associate at Only Connect and is working with Kudos on adapting Bitch Boxer for television.

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