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National Theatre commits to gender equality by 2021

Timberlake Wertenbaker is one of the female writers who has had work staged at the National Theatre. Photo: Bronwen Sharp
Timberlake Wertenbaker is one of the female writers who has had work staged at the National Theatre. Photo: Bronwen Sharp
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National Theatre director Rufus Norris has committed to ensuring gender equality in terms of the directors and living writers the venue employs by 2021.

The measure is part of a diversity drive at the South Bank theatre, which has also announced that Lenny Henry – a high-profile diversity campaigner – has joined the venue’s board.

Norris, unveiling his new season of work, described “gender balance across the whole organisation as massively important”.

It comes as the theatre has announced that Tamsin Greig will play the lead role of Malvolio in Twelfth Night, renamed as Malvolia.

“It’s crucial to look at writers and directors... and we would hope by 2021 that we get to a stage with directors and living writers where we have a 50:50 gender balance,” he said.

He added: “There are a lot of women playwrights and women directors coming through, so it’s our responsibility to encourage that and reap the benefits.”

Norris added that he was working with Tonic Theatre director Lucy Kerbel on the plans, and said there were “various other targets” the venue is aiming to achieve.

Last week, actor Denise Gough revealed details of a new campaign to achieve a 50:50 gender split for performers by 2018.

Norris revealed that, last year, 30% of performers on the National’s stages were black, Asian or minority ethnic.

He said the NT was in a “healthy place” with regards to BAME talent on stage, but said more needed to be done throughout the entire organisation.

“We have got to make this feel like it’s not just an organisation, but an industry, that is open to the whole of the nation and it’s something we take very seriously,” he said.

Norris described Henry as a “great ambassador for theatre and the arts”.

“He is an incredibly active figure in all kinds of areas, but particularly in diversity, which is the main part of the works we want to be moving forward with over the next five years,” he said.

Norris also said campaign group Act for Change had been given office space at the NT.

“They have taken up residency within the office and we support them. They are there as a provocation,” Norris said.

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