Gillian Hanna obituary

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Actor, translator and founder of the feminist theatre group Monstrous Regiment

Before she had established herself as a significant presence on the orthodox stage, Gillian Hanna, who has died aged 75 from an autoimmune disease, worked with the socialist theatre groups 7.84 and Belt and Braces. On one occasion during the 1970s heyday of fringe theatre she found herself with a number of female actors, all auditioning for the same small role with Belt and Braces. Gillian decided that enough was enough.

Thus in 1975 she, Chris Bowler and Mary McCusker founded Monstrous Regiment (echoing John Knox’s tract against rule by female monarchs), with the aim of reflecting more fully the lives of women. Of their first production, Scum: Death, Destruction and Dirty Washing (1976), by Chris Bond, Claire Luckham and the company, set in the Paris Commune of 1871, Gillian wrote: “The shivering excitement in the air was almost tangible. Women felt they were throwing off the shackles of a thousand years or more and finding freedom. We were going to be the midwives for a whole new era of equality.â€

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