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International Women's Day: Which male role would you play?

From Denise Gough to Janie Dee, we asked actresses which roles, traditionally played by men, they would most like to play

With Michelle Terry announced yesterday as Henry V at the Open Air Theatre, Glenda Jackson cast as King Lear at the Old Vic and Tamsin Greig due to appear as Malvolio at the National, 2016 seems to be the year that gender-blind casting truly comes to the fore.

To celebrate International Women's Day, we asked some of the UK's finest actresses which role, traditionally played by a male, would they most like to play.


Denise Gough

"I'd like to play Iago in Othello. I think he is so elegant in his deceit - he covers his true character so fantastically. There's so much to play with. He is like a really brilliant woman. Complex. Also Jaques in As You Like It, for the speech 'All the world's a stage'. Breaks my heart."

Denise shot to fame with her critically acclaimed performance in People, Places and Things which transfers to Wyndham's this month. Other theatre credits include Desire Under the Elms, Our New Girl and The Duchess of Malfi.


Jenna Russell

"I'd love to tackle Leontes in The Winter's Tale. I have ideas on how you could deal with the obvious problems that would arise from being a female taking that role. But I think a woman's perspective on uncontrollable jealousy, filicide, grief, redemption and ultimately forgiveness would be amazing.

"In terms of musicals, I would love to play Bobby in Company, just swap genders throughout that would be pretty fabulous!"

Jenna's theatre credits include Grey Gardens, Merrily We Roll Along and her Olivier Award-winning performance in Sunday in the Park with George. Her next role is Mephistopheles, a traditionally male role, in Jamie Lloyd's production of Dr Faustus.


Kate Fleetwood

"I'd like to play Iago, one of the best and most complex villains. To inhabit that level of mercenary nihilism is something female characters don't often get called upon to explore. Not needing approval of any kind, his exit lines brilliantly capture: 'Demand me nothing; What you know, you know: From this time forth I never will speak word'"

On the other hand, Falstaff would be a wonderful part to play. Full of warmth, love, wit and wisdom. He also has one of my favourite lines in Shakespeare: '...as fat as butter'"

Kate is soon to appear in Bug at FOUND111. Her recent theatre credits have included Medea at the Almeida, High Society at the Old Vic and London Road at the National Theatre and on film.


Debbie Kurup

"Judas Iscariot has always fascinated me. Is he a traitor or a selfless hero? His character throws up some interesting questions for the audience. From his petulant behaviour at the start to his ultimate demise, his journey is a messy one.

"I love controversial characters. Jesus Christ Superstar is written from his perspective and making Judas the protagonist is an interesting choice. The inner turmoil he experiences throughout the play is so powerful. As a character he is universally vilified yet he truly believes his course of action is the right one. To play that kind of conflict is always challenging and exciting for an actor... Not to mention the songs are badass and I'd look good in leather pants. Ha!!"

Debbie's theatre credits include Anything Goes, Sister Act, Chicago and the original UK cast of The Bodyguard


Savannah Stevenson

"I'd love to play Iago from Othello. It's probably the role furthest away from my casting 'type' I can think of, so what a challenge!

"He is evil and devious. His skills of deception are terrifying. There aren't many roles for women like that."

Savannah is currently in her third year as Glinda in Wicked. Other theatre roles include Mary Poppins and Gone With the Wind.


Carrie Hope Fletcher

"I would love to play Enjolras in Les Miserables. He's such a strong, stoic figure that women rarely get to play without also having a love interest or romance to move their story forward. I would love to be as fierce as Enjolras for a night!"

Carrie has recently completed a three year run as Eponine in Les Miserables. Her other stage credits include The War of the Worlds and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


Emily Taaffe

"There's so many but I think I'd love to give one of the comic characters like Malvolio a go. Having watched Jonny Slinger from the wings every night at the RSC I'd love the challenge of trying to achieve that level of ridiculousness whilst simultaneously breaking the audience's hearts. Plus I think I'd look good in yellow stockings!"

Emily's stage credits include Conor McPherson's The Veil and The Cherry Orchard (National Theatre), The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest and Twelfth Night (RSC).


Eva Noblezada

"In every action movie there's that self sufficient male character who always wins the fist fight. Women are badass if you haven't noticed. I've always wanted to do that. Switch it up and show that women can just as easily play powerful roles that require a little muscle!

"Immediately off the top of my head I think of slightly twisted masculine characters like Burrs in The Wild Party or Sweeney Todd. I'd definitely have a fun time dipping into the dark side."

Eva made her West End debut in Miss Saigon. She is soon to join the cast of Les Miserables as Eponine.


Cassidy Janson

"I'd love to play Bobby in Company. It's such a great acting role AND he gets to sing 'Being Alive'. One of my favourite songs."

Cassidy is currently playing Carole King in the West End production of Beautiful. Her other stage credits include Dessa Rose, Avenue Q and Wicked.


Evelyn Hoskins

"I'd love to play Christopher Boone in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for many reasons, Simon Stephens' writing, the huge journey the character goes through in the play, the mental and physical challenges of such an intense role, and of course (most importantly) getting to work and play with a puppy on a daily basis!"

Evelyn has recently toured the UK in Alan Ayckbourn's Hero's Welcome which she will take to New York this summer. Other notable credits include Carrie the Musical and Sound of Music Live.


Jill Winternitz

"Roy Cohn from Angels in America. Roy is a tightly-wound, hypocritical, vicious ball of complexity. Based on the real life McCarthy-era attorney Roy Cohn, Tony Kushner created a provocative, contradictory role that would be truly exhilarating and challenging to play."

Jill recently played the lead role, Girl, in Once on the West End. Her stage credits also include Dark Tourism and Dirty Dancing.


Rebecca Trehearn

"Who wouldn't want a stab at Lear?! Shakespeare's characters are an embarrassment of riches; I'd love the opportunity to try to pick his psyche apart, decide what makes him tick."

Rebecca is currently in rehearsals for the West End transfer of Sheffield Crucible's Show Boat. Most recently she has also been seen in City of Angels at the Donmar and Dogfight at Southwark Playhouse.


Emma Kingston

"Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew, one of my favourite Shakespearean comedies. Why should it be that a man has to tame a woman? Why not the other way around?

"Ideally, people we create relationships with, be it a friendship or more, we like the other person because of their unique personality... but it would be fun to play Petruchio. A man who actively seeks to tame Kate as a challenge! Who doesn't love a challenge? I think an audience would love to see a woman take a man and have him over her knee because he won't comply with society."

Emma is currently in the West End company of Les Miserables. Past stage roles include In The Heights and The Light in the Piazza.


Julie Atherton

"So I guess in musical theatre it would have to be Leo Frank from Parade or Sweeney Todd, but I'd love the role of Oedipus. I LOVE that play, but that would be breaking two boundaries - a musical theatre actress in a play as a man? I won't believe it!"

Julie's extensive theatre credits include Therese Raquin, Sister Act, Lift and the original London cast of Avenue Q.


Janie Dee

"Whilst Shakespeare writes extremely well for women, it is true that the meatiest roles - apart from maybe Cleopatra, Kate in Taming of the Shrew and Rosalind in As You Like It - are the male roles.

"Although I did love being Titania for the Globe in Russia and China - that's a pretty meaty role. But if I had to choose a male role I would go the whole way and choose Coriolanus. Passionate, complex, physical, epic. Yes please!"

Janie is a two-time Olivier Award-winning actress - for Comic Potential and Carousel. She is currently starring in the West End transfer of Broadway hit Hand to God.


Gabriella Williams

"I've never thought about it before and now suddenly there are so many male roles that I would love to have a bash at. I'm going to run with Huey Calhoun, I remember watching Memphis and thinking what a great character he was - he gets some cracking comedy moments, some genuinely tender and touching moments AND he gets some big, belty diva songs to sing. Ideal!"

Gabriella graduated from Arts Ed last year and since then has gone on to star in Carrie the Musical at Southwark Playhouse and is currently playing Sophie in the West End production of Mamma Mia!


Lucie Jones

"I would love to play any of the Elders in Book of Mormon, but especially Elder Cunningham. Such a brilliant role!"

Lucie shot to fame on series six of The X Factor. Her theatre credits include We Will Rock You, Les Miserables and she is currently in rehearsals to play Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at the Curve, Leicester.


Lauren Samuels

"At school we studied The Crucible and it affected me so greatly that I've attempted to watch every live stage version of it since, I've also watched the Daniel Day Lewis movie too many times to count. For that reason, make me John Proctor please?!"

Lauren was a contestant on BBC's Over the Rainbow. She has just finished in the West End premiere of Bend it Like Beckham and is about to start work on The Buskers Opera at Park Theatre. Other theatre credits include Grease, We Will Rock You and The Last Five Years.


Got an idea for the perfect gender-blind casting? Let us know on Twitter.

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