Nicholas Hytner predicts gender equality among theatre-makers

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Female playwrights and directors in the UK will be as fairly represented as their male counterparts 20 years from now, according to National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner.

Hytner’s comments came during the annual Directors Guild Peter Brook Lecture after he was questioned by an audience member about the trend of National Theatre artistic directors being white, male and largely educated at the University of Cambridge.

He said: “One of the things I can predict with confidence is that – looking at the young playwrights and directors in their 20s and 30s – that by the time they get to be in their 40s and 50s the theatre will be, in terms of sex at least, reflective of the audience that it plays to. Whether it [the theatre industry] will be within the next 20 years more broadly reflective I don’t know, I’m less confident.”

He added: “We’re no different to the BBC or the judiciary. It’s an unfortunate feature of the way the country works.”

Meanwhile, the Bristol Old Vic’s artistic director Tom Morris said that it was “unproductive to feel guilty” about brilliant theatre-makers who emerged from a particular social background. He said that instead, efforts should be focused on creating broader access to the arts for aspiring professionals. “We must make sure that access to the creative process is as broad as possible – so that the next generation of artists can continue to broaden – and that’s where I worry about the arts being stripped out of the education system and it becoming impossible to do any university course in the humanities that’s funded.”

On the theme of audience demographics, Hytner also said venues should not be expected to attract a balanced cross section of its local community for all performances. “When I arrived in 2003, public policy was very audience-centric. It’s something that I kicked against. It’s not theatre’s primary responsibility to deliver the perfect audience,” he said.