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Hampstead Theatre criticised over absence of female writers

Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Liz Smith Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Liz Smith
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More than 100 industry figures have signed a letter condemning the lack of female playwrights in the forthcoming season at London’s Hampstead Theatre.

Playwright Alecky Blythe and actor Giles Terera are among those supporting the call for theatres across the country to “get their act together” over the issue of inclusivity.

Hampstead’s autumn season features no plays written by women, and the letter argues that there is “gross inequality” in terms of the representation of female writers.

Playwrights Paul Hewitt and Camilla Whitehill and director Sara Joyce wrote the open letter to The Stage, which has been signed by 101 people including writers Nessah Muthy, James Fritz, Nina Segal and Vinay Patel, and actor Daniel York.

Addressed to Hampstead’s artistic director Edward Hall, the letter reads: “In the Hampstead Theatre’s 2017 autumn season there are no plays written by women. Why not? This is gross inequality and as theatremakers, we cannot stand by anymore and watch theatre programming under-represent some of the most important voices in theatre.”

The letter goes on to acknowledge efforts by the new-writing venue to showcase women’s voices, including productions of plays by Beth Steel and Abi Morgan, but argues this
is not enough.

It concedes that similar inequality exists at other theatres, but adds: “Theatre is still at risk of being dominated by white, middle-class men who not only misrepresent artists but also alienate their audiences and perpetuate a term heard again and again: ‘theatre is dying’.”

Hall responded to the criticism, arguing that the autumn season is a “tiny snapshot” of Hampstead’s work which only shows what ended up being programmed, not what he had aspired to programme.

He said: “In programming a venue, there are priorities driving the choices: artist availability, money and box office return. Plus, you can only programme the plays you have.”

Read the full letter here

Read Edward Hall’s response here

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