‘Lack of female playwrights no longer an issue’ – Royal Court literary manager

Chris Campbell, literary manager at London's Royal Court Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray Chris Campbell, literary manager at London's Royal Court Theatre. Photo: Helen Murray
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Gender diversity in new writing has improved so drastically it is “almost laughable”, the literary manager of London’s Royal Court Theatre  has claimed.

Speaking at London Writers’ Week, Chris Campbell said he could not remember the last time he had to “sit down and discuss gender diversity” at the London venue, whereas black, Asian and minority ethnic representation was still much more of an on-going issue.

He said: “Diversity [in terms of] men and women has improved so drastically during my time working in theatre it is almost laughable.

“Last year we produced seven plays in a row by women in the downstairs theatre without trying. It wasn’t a policy. It’s just what happened.

“We shouldn’t become complacent, but it does mean we think about it in a very different way.”

He added: “I can’t remember the last time we sat down and talked about gender diversity in theatre. And that’s quite often because I’m the only man in the room.

“It’s also because that shift, to me, it looks irreversible, particularly in our theatre.”

In the Royal Court’s new season, female writers and directors outweigh their male counterparts two to one.

Campbell admitted that there was still a “big problem” in terms of the classical repertoire, but argued that new writing theatres were doing well in terms of producing women’s plays, and any imbalances were immediately obvious.

The literary manager added that the situation was still uneven in the submission of unsolicited scripts, which came from about two thirds men and one third women.

While there are some exceptions, this is often down to confidence, he said, with men more likely to submit something on speculation than women.

“I think that’s probably true, and that men and women write equivalent numbers of plays, men are more likely to read [a play] through and go ‘yes, I’m sending that in’, but women are perhaps more likely to read it through and go ‘no, that’s not good enough’.”