Oliviers 2017: Nominees bemoan lack of roles for ‘invisible’ older women

Claire Machin, Sophie Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in The Girls at Phoenix Theatre, London. Photo: Matt Crockett, Dewynters
Claire Machin, Sophie Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in The Girls at Phoenix Theatre, London. Photo: Matt Crockett, Dewynters
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Olivier award nominees have criticised the lack of theatre roles for older women, claiming actresses become “invisible” once they hit 40.

Haydn Gwynne, who was nominated for best actress in a supporting role in a musical, argued that there are not enough female supporting roles.

She told The Stage: “[The variety of roles available] has always been an issue for women.

“In a way, it’s the supporting roles. Particularly for older women, there’s just less and less out there.

“For men you don’t have to be a star to still be getting some nice supporting roles, in King Lear, for instance, so that’s what’s rather marvellous about having women take on some of the major Shakespeare roles.”

Asked whether she would encourage gender-swapped casting, she replied: “Why not? There’s so many productions out there – it makes total sense.

“I can’t wait to see Tamsin [Greig] take on Malvolio. We’re not going to suddenly stop casting men, I don’t think they need to worry.”

Speaking on the red carpet, Claire Moore from The Girls, who was nominated alongside her five co-stars for best actress in a musical, said it was rare to find a production with as many leading roles for women as The Girls.

She said: “We couldn’t have been inspired by a more sensational group of ladies who made that calendar, and for us to have the privilege of representing them couldn’t be more fitting.

“You don’t find many roles for leading ladies, especially six ladies, and especially ladies of a certain age, and six ladies getting their kit off.

“There’s not many parts that come along like this and certainly for ladies of our age, and what is so wonderful at the end of the night when we go out with our collecting buckets to raise money for the charity is that we are inspiring other ladies because of what we do.”

She added: “Once you’re over 40 you become invisible it seems, well not in our case.”

Their comments were echoed by actor and singer Audra McDonald, who performed at the ceremony.

She said: “There are never enough [roles for women].

“I’d like to see more work and roles for women behind the scenes as well. It’s always an issue everywhere with everything. Everywhere across the board there always could be more women.”

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