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National Theatre Blog

Tonic Celebrates

by Lucy Kerbel

Lois Chimimba as Aly and Carly Bawden as Alice in

On 23 Feb, we’re hosting Tonic Celebrates: Inspirational Women in Theatre, one in a series of events foregrounding the achievements of inspirational women in theatre. Here’s Lucy Kerbel, director of Tonic Theatre, explaining a little bit about it.


What is Tonic Celebrates?


Tonic Celebrates is a series of events celebrating brilliant women in theatre. We started running them last year because at Tonic we were keen to find more ways to highlight the achievements of women across theatre. Tonic is an organisation whose remit is to support theatre in the UK to achieve greater gender equality. So we spend lots of our time focusing on the imbalances that exist between men and women and working out how these can be tackled. But we also want to shout about the good news stories and to highlight where things are going well – because that’s as integral to achieving progress as flagging where as an industry we still need to do better.  


Where did the idea for Tonic Celebrates come from?


I’d been speaking to some younger women who were starting out in theatre. They were saying how useful they would find it to hear from women who were at the top of their game – how had their done it? What did they find challenging? How had they made it work for them? Although the initial impetus for Tonic Celebrates came through speaking to young women, I think the events have great appeal for anyone interested in theatre; we all need role models regardless of how old we are. So the aim of Tonic Celebrates is to reduce some of the mystification of how successful women in theatre have got to where they are, but also to raise the curtain on the incredible levels of hard work and passion and tenacity that have generally formed the basis of their journeys.


What can the audience expect?


We’ll be on stage in the Dorfman and our guests will be writer Moira Buffini –whose work for the National includes (pictured above), Welcome to Thebes, and Dinner –, the National Theatre’s Director of Production and Planning Sacha Milroy, and the designer Vicki Mortimer, who has designed over 25 productions at the NT and is currently busy in pre-production for Follies.

In the first half I’ll be in the Chair, chatting with the guests about their careers, trajectories, and inspirations. Then in the second half it’s over to questions from the audience.

The mood of the evening is light, upbeat, and there’s generally lots of laughter. After the first Tonic Celebrates event, one audience member said to me, ‘It felt really intimate, even though we were in a West End theatre, it felt like we were all in the pub having a natter together.’ That’s exactly the kind of feel we were hoping for. Generally I’ve been overwhelmed by how positive audience responses have been. People have been really vocal about how inspirational they’ve found the events, how galvanising and, at times, actually quite emotional – but in a good way!.


So there have been other Tonic Celebrates events?


Yes, our first was in June 2016 at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End where our guests were lighting designer Paule Constable, Tricycle Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham, and writer Jessica Swale. Then in October we were in the beautiful Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe and our guests were Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown who run leading fight direction company Rc-Annie, writer Tanika Gupta, and the Globe’s Artistic Director Emma Rice.



Visit the Tonic Celebrates page