Suzman, Squire and Gupta join push for better representation of women in theatre
Leading industry figures including actor and director Janet Suzman, Ambassador Theatre Group joint chief executive Rosemary Squire and playwright Tanika Gupta have called for better representation of women in theatre as part of a new gender equality project.
Women Centre Stage, created by Sphinx Theatre Company and launched last week at an industry event at London’s Tristan Bates Theatre, is a five-month project that will culminate in a festival of new writing at the National Theatre in March.
Suzman, who delivered the event’s keynote address, said: “I’m not sure that all women are in charge of their dramatic destiny. We need to begin to take strides toward roles where women don’t belong to anybody but make their own steps in the world – intellectually and philosophically as well as emotionally.”
Squire, who co-founded ATG in 1992, said diversity is needed to promote creativity in all aspects of the industry. “It gives permission for all of us to be different, to be creative,” she said.
Playwright Tanika Gupta added that despite progress being made, “there is still a struggle ahead”.
“I don’t want to be seen as an Asian writer or a woman writer. I want to be seen as a writer. There’s loads of work out there but you’ve still got to fight for it,” she said.
Women Centre Stage will work with individuals and partners including the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse to commission and develop work ahead of a one-day festival at the National’s temporary theatre.
Sphinx Theatre artistic director Sue Parrish, who is leading the project, said: “I have done many years of campaigns and I think that we are now being given the space to explore this artistically. It’s that absolute commitment and enthusiasm of artists to bring their creativity to the party that will make this different from a normal campaign.”
Other speakers included playwright Penelope Skinner, actor Tanya Moodie and Soho Theatre’s Jules Haworth.
The project follows ongoing efforts to achieve gender parity in UK theatre.
In September, organisations such as Sheffield Theatres, Chichester Festival Theatre and Headlong pledged to increase the number of women working in all aspects of theatre following research carried out by Tonic Theatre.
The research found that of the 24 productions staged in one day across the top 20 theatres in receipt of the most funding from Arts Council England, women made up just 8% of writers, 37% of performers and 38% of directors.
It revealed that 17% of sound designers were female, as were 22% of lighting designers and 57% of set designers.
Equity has also run an ongoing campaign aimed at addressing the imbalance of women on stage and screen.
Parrish said: “What we are seeing is a real energy and attack behind the question of women’s representation in theatre. There’s been a lot of talking about it and now we need to do it.”