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Rufus Norris: ‘We must publicly name and shame to achieve gender equality’

Rufus Norris. Photo: Paul Plews
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National Theatre director Rufus Norris has said gender equality in the industry will not improve unless organisations are willing to “publicly name and shame” themselves.

Speaking to The Stage at the 25th-anniversary Arts Foundation Awards, Norris argued that the National Theatre had to lead by example in reaching out to more female writers and ensuring balanced casts.

Norris said that a lack of female writers’ work being shown on the UK’s main stages was part of the reason the National set targets for 50% living female writers, 50% female directors, and 50% actresses employed by the organisation by 2021.

“The thing that will get me fired is if I bankrupt the place, the next thing that will get me fired is if the work is no good. Beyond those two, inclusion, inclusivity and making sure that we as the National Theatre represents the nation as it is, which includes 50.4% women, is the most important thing,” he told The Stage.

He added: “At the same time you’ve got to have pressure all the time to make sure you’re following those things. Policies have been made forever, and unless you publicly name and shame yourself, nothing’s going to change. If I don’t reach out to more female writers and make sure my casts are balanced and properly diverse, then I can’t ask anyone else to.”

Norris said that with every new programme at the theatre, balance was the “first discussion” had.

He said: “We as an organisation have set these targets that we’re very public about because it’s not easy running a theatre; a lot of decisions have to be made quite quickly and we always reach for the thing that we know, and the thing that feels safe because you’ve got a financial bottom line to hit in any arts organisation, but that inevitably limits it.”

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