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Ronald Harwood forbids women from lead role in The Dresser

Ronald Harwood. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock Ronald Harwood. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock
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Ronald Harwood has said he will never allow a woman to play the lead role in his renowned play The Dresser, and that he has written the exclusion into his will.

The playwright, who received Olivier and Tony nominations for the drama, said it would be “impossible” for a woman to play the part of Sir – an ageing and experienced actor who has played King Lear 227 times.

He claimed casting a woman in the role “would just make an absolute nonsense of my play and I don’t want to do that”.

He told The Telegraph: “It is just impossible. How could it happen? It’s impossible for a woman to play Lear more than 100 times. It would be nonsense, it wouldn’t happen.”

Harwood then revealed he had written a clause into his will stating no woman should ever be allowed to take on the role.

His comments follow claims by new Shakespeare’s Globe head Emma Rice that there is no reason male Shakespeare roles should not be gender-swapped to create more roles for women.

Responding to Rice’s remarks, Harwood said he took issue with female actors taking on roles that are written as male.

“I don’t have a problem with women playing men generally… well I do actually, but that’s another matter,” he said.

A new BBC adaptation of The Dresser starring Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen was aired on BBC2 in November.

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