The Company Reforms

In 1983 the company reformed for the production of Poppies by Noel Greig. Martin Humphries, Kate Owen, and Philip Osment were asked in to help form a Management Committee. Kate Owen, the only woman, was assured that more women would be invited on at a later date (Tierl Thompson joined soon after), and the company would remain committed to producing 50/50 plays by men and women. The company had been set up as a company with limited shares, but it remained committed to working together as a collective. The policy of the company insisted that any radical vision of society included the question of gender and sexuality.

‘In ’83: myself, Kate Owen and Philip Timmins were very central to it. It all sounded very shambolic but it worked. I know that after I left, the Arts Council as with a number of other companies, wanted companies to have Artistic Directors and although, there was artistic leadership always, but the structures within it weren’t as formal as they were later on. What was interesting about all of those companies was.. Oh Tierl Thompson came and worked with us, I poached her from the Women’s Theatre Group. She came and did admin for us, rather wonderfully. We all sort of did everything and I look back and I go, well actually, once those companies started having artistic directors, things changed, often not for the best really. But I think the Arts Council just didn’t know how to relate to us. They knew there was certain people that was key within the organisation but they couldn’t relate to us as bureaucracy to bureaucracy because there was no one with the title of Artistic Director or Chief Executive or da da da. It was more shambolic than that and I don’t think the Arts Council could deal with it. But you know we booked the tours and we did the publicity and did all the Equity business and we raised the money and without those structures it worked perfectly well. We were all doing, working for no money, all that work.’ ‘That period with Kate Owen was very key, apart from her creative abilities [as a theatre designer] is her politics, also the team, was quite male heavy. Kate had tenacity in all quarters around the type of work that she felt we should be doing and the direction we should be going. She worked on Poppies as a designer and part of the management team, and that was an all=male company. I think Gay Sweatshop had gone beyond the notion of a men’s company and a women’s company then, although, they were to be other productions that were all female cast, for example Raising the Wreck by Sue Frummin, anyway Kate was a key person.’ Noel Greig, 2008

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