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How bad is gender inequality for female playwrights?

In Features, London theatre, Native, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre by Victoria SadlerLeave a Comment

Terri Paddock recently hosted a series of events alongside the play, The Father, at Trafalgar Studios. Included in these debates was one on whether enough is being done about gender inequality in theatre.

Though, sadly, I missed the discussion, I decided to collate my thoughts on how this impacts female playwrights, in particular, as it’s a subject that riles me enormously.

The platforming of female playwrights is, in some places, appalling and it continues to be a challenge across the board. We’ve all known this for a long time but, for me, the real nadir moment came when the National Theatre commissioned a play about feminism, Blurred Lines, and gave it to a man – Nick Payne – to write.

I mean, if women can’t even get commissioned to write a play about feminism, what hope is there?

When I saw Blurred Lines I was furious, my review on the Huffington Post leading to the NT press office to contact me. Well, they say you ain’t a proper critic till you’ve upset a press office so I guess you could say that was a coming-of-age for me personally. I don’t doubt Nick Payne’s talent but it angers me to this day that a play about feminism was given to a male playwright to write.

Alecky Blythe’s London Road at the National Theatre, Olivier Theatre. Photo: Mark Douet

Alecky Blythe’s London Road at the National Theatre, Olivier Theatre. Photo: Mark Douet

The National Theatre, of course, has previous when it comes to its preference for male playwrights, but it is not alone.

Last week, I sat down and went through the past productions list on the Old Vic website. In the past 10 years, the Old Vic has put on two plays written by women – TWO. Cloaca and Kiss Me, Kate. And that’s me being generous as Cloaca, written by Maria Goos, opened in 2004 – 11 years ago – and Kiss Me, Kate was co-written by Sam and Bella Spewack.

So actually I could conceivably claim that in the past 10 years, the Old Vic has not put on a single play written by a sole female playwright.

In all the #thankyouNick tweets that covered Twitter on Nick Hytner’s leaving the National, Alecky Blythe‘s London Road came up again and again as a highlight for many – a play that has now been adapted for the screen. As did Lucy Prebble’s The Effect, which won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play.

Another of Lucy’s plays, Enron, was a huge hit and won the 2009 TMA (Theatrical Management Association) Award for Best New Play.

Then there’s Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica, another critical hit, which walked off with the Evening Standard Award for Best Play. And the current holder of this year’s Verity Bargate award is a woman: Vicky Jones won it for her play, The One. Take a look at this year’s awards: we’ve got Jennifer Haley’s The Nether nominated for Best New Play at the Oliviers, Beth Steel won Most Promising Playwright at Evening Standard for Wonderland, an awards show that also saw The James Plays, written by Rona Munro, awarded Best Play.

The message is clear – if you give us the platform, we deliver.

So why aren’t female playwrights getting visibility? Can we reduce this to the simple thesis that theatre is a world dominated by men, and that men commission men? Well, no. It’s a lot more complex than that…

Terri Paddock recently hosted a series of events alongside the play, The Father, at Trafalgar Studios. Included in these debates was one on whether enough is being done about gender inequality in theatre. Though, sadly, I missed the discussion, I decided to collate my thoughts on how this impacts female playwrights, in particular, as it’s a subject that riles me …

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Photos: Final Father post-show panel on Women in the Arts

In Features, London theatre, Photos, Plays by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

All good things must come to an end. Last night was the third and final post-show panel discussion in the series that I’ve programmed and hosted around Jagged Fence’s new production of The Father, starring Alex Ferns. While I’m sad the series has finished (it was such invigorating fun!), I’m happy to say that we went out on an absolute high. Following the past two weeks, in which we tackled “Feminism Today” and “Parenting Rights”, last night’s discussion subject was titled “Women in the Arts: Is Enough Being Done About Gender Inequality?” 

Director Fiona Laird suggested that the balance be redressed by only allowing only plays by female writers to be produced for the next 300 years

The guests gathered to debate the point were: The Stage editor Alistair Smith, director and feminist campaigner Fiona Laird, actor and Act for Change founding member Stephanie Street and Evening Standard chief arts correspondent Louise Jury (click here for full panelist biographies); and, from The Father, director Abbey Wright, leading lady and producer Emily Dobbs, and cast member June Watson, as well as, on behalf of venue owner the Ambassador Theatre Group, London programmer Charlotte Longstaff.

All good things must come to an end. Last night was the third and final post-show panel discussion in the series that I’ve programmed and hosted around Jagged Fence’s new production of The Father, starring Alex Ferns. While I’m sad the series has finished (it was such invigorating fun!), I’m happy to say that we […]

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Hey, Ms Producer! Sonia Friedman leads the growing ranks of female producers

In Broadway, Features, Interviews, London theatre, Musicals, News, Opinion, Plays by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

Maybe it’s because I’m considering trying my own hand at producing and the universe is sending me encouragement, but everywhere I look at the moment, I see female producers. On Sunday night, the powerhouse that is Sonia Friedman takes another shot at Tony Awards glory in New York, where her transfers of the Shakespeare’s Globe […]

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Who owns Shakespeare? Phyllida Lloyd and Harriet Walter lay claim for women

In Features, Interviews, London theatre, Opinion, Photos by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

“Julius Caesar rocked my world,” says Donmar artistic director Josie Rourke. She isn’t talking about the play alone, but rather Phyllida Lloyd’s acclaimed all-female production, which Rourke programmed at the Donmar Warehouse in late 2012-early 2013 before transferring it to New York for a run at St Ann’s Warehouse. Now director Lloyd is reuniting with star […]