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Glenda Jackson criticises ‘hypocritical’ response to theatre harassment allegations

Glenda Jackson in King Lear at the Old Vic. Photo: Tristram Kenton Glenda Jackson in King Lear at the Old Vic. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Glenda Jackson has branded the response to allegations of sexual harassment in the theatre industry as hypocritical.

The actor and former Labour MP made the remarks at Sunday night’s London Evening Standard Theatre Awards, where performers Cate Blanchett and Phoebe Waller-Bridge also spoke out about harassment allegations.

Speaking to The Stage about the recent spate of allegations, Jackson – who was named best actress at the ceremony – said: “It seems to me that there is an amount of hypocrisy that’s swirling around this particular issue. Are people pretending they have never heard of anything like this before? There isn’t a woman in the land who hasn’t experienced this.”

She added: “You don’t have to be in the theatre or any of the famed professions to know this goes on all the time. Two women in this country die every week at the hands of their partner, usually a male, so why is that not [making] front page stories every week?”

Jackson’s comments follow a string of complaints – of varying degrees of seriousness – against senior figures in theatre that have emerged following allegations of rape and sexual harassment against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

In October, it was revealed that Out of Joint founder Max Stafford-Clark had left the company after a female member of staff complained that he had made inappropriate comments towards her.

Meanwhile, a report from the Old Vic has said it had received 20 historical claims of inappropriate behaviour against Kevin Spacey, 14 of which were so severe that complainants were advised to contact the police.

In Ireland, Dublin’s Gate Theatre announced an independent review into allegations of sexual harassment and bullying against former artistic director Michael Colgan. Colgan has insisted he is not guilty of anything more than “misjudged behaviour”.

A recent report by Arts Professional found theatre workers were more at risk of sexual harassment than other arts workers.

In response to the allegations, London’s Royal Court held a Day of Action, which highlighted more than 100 cases of sexual harassment in the sector. The theatre has since issued an industry code aimed at preventing harassment, while industry bodies UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre have announced plans to hold a series of open forum events around the country to encourage theatres to share best practice.

Speaking to The Stage at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards, Blanchett urged for the accused to receive fair trials.

“It’s a conversation that is really important to have and not just in this industry but in all industries. I support the people who have come forward and it’s really important the media plays a responsible role in this – that there is such a thing as trial by jury rather than trial by media,” she said.

She claimed the media was an “important forum in which people can air certain grievances” but added: “We have to be responsible within that.”

At the ceremony, presenter Phoebe Waller-Bridge used her opening speech to highlight the severity of the situation. She said: “For all you creepy bastards who think you’ve got away with it: we know who you are and we will find you.”

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