Josie Rourke is sounding off on sexist double standards. The theater and film director told The Stage that “women directors are largely rewarded by critics and awards when they respectfully deliver the canon, rather than reinterpret it.” Women, in other words, are expected to uphold someone else’s vision — usually a man’s.
“I’m not sure it’s conscious,” Rourke explained, “I think it’s generally preferred for them to nurture rather than change – occasionally an old-fashioned perception of gender persists. In theater, we don’t always celebrate our female auteurs and reward them for being conceptual. I’d love to see boldness and experiment as celebrated in women as it is in men,” she emphasized.
Rourke made her feature debut with 2018’s “Mary Queen of Scots,” a 16th century-set historical drama that chronicles the power struggle between Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) as they vie for the throne.
When we asked Rourke what drew her to the story, she said, “I’ve told a lot of modern stories as a theater director and directed a lot of classic plays. I’ve been thinking a lot — as I think others have — about women in leadership. I had an intuition about Mary that she’d been done a disservice and that there was a campaign to make sure we didn’t take her seriously as a politician, because we dismissed her as someone who was too emotional or sexual to make sound decisions,” she revealed. “I have a deep belief that in order to live better in the present, we need to tell more truthful stories about our past, and this film was an opportunity to do this with one of the greatest actors of our generation, [Saoirse Ronan].”
Rourke’s production of “Sweet Charity,” a musical about a dance hall hostess living in 1967 New York, is on stage now at the Donmar, marking her final production at the venue, where she served as Artistic Director. Her other theater credits include “Measure for Measure, ” “Saint Joan,” and “Elegy.”