During the earliest conception of theatre in English history, there were specific laws that restricted women from having any involvement within performances and acting onstage in any way.

Englishmen found it amusing that in other countries, such as continental Europe, women were allowed on stage. As the centuries have rolled out and Shakespearean traditions continue to reign stage direction, the 21st century has seen gender role switching become something of a trend within theatre across the world. Some of the most iconic roles in history, such as Hamlet, being played by the opposite gender has a become popular and modern tendency used by directors to creatively adapt the story in a way that is unconventional and engaging. We look at the 10 top plays where switching gender roles have played a role in the success of a play:

1. The Importance of Being Earnest (2015)

David Suchet plays the role of the formidable Lady Bracknell in the 2015 version of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ at the London Vaudeville Theatre.2. The Merchant of Venice (2015)

Rachel Pickup played Portia, who dresses up as a boy to enjoy the freedom that comes without having to be a woman, in ‘The Merchant of Venice’ earlier this year at The Globe, London.

3. Hamlet (2014)

Maxine Peake played the Danish Prince in ‘Hamlet’ at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in 2014, although the leading roles of Prospero and Macbeth each went to males.
4. Henry IV (2014)

Harriet Walter plays the lead role of ‘Henry IV’ in Phyllida Lloyds recreation at the Donmar Warehouse, London, in 2014.

5. Twelfth Night (2012)

Mark Rylance’s performance as a ‘stylised’ Olivia in Tim Carroll’s Shakespeare Globe adaptation of ‘Twelfth Night’ was critically acclaimed back in 2012 at London’s Apollo.

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6. The War of The Roses (2009)

Cate Blanchett played Richard II in Benedict Andrews production of ‘The War Of Roses’ in Sydney, 2009.7. Taming Of The Shrew (2003)

Janet McTeer played the macho Pertruchio in the all-female casting of ‘Taming Of The Shrew’ back in 2003.
8. The Tempest (2000)

Vanessa Redgrave gave a memorable performance as Prospero in ‘The Tempest’ back in 2000 at the Globe, London.
9. Richard II (1995)

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Irish actress Fiona Shaw played Richard II in Deborah Warner’s production at the National Theatre, London, in 1995.
10. Peter Pan (1954)

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