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National Theatre report reveals women wrote one third of shows by living writers last year

National Theatre. Photo: Shutterstock National Theatre. Photo: Shutterstock
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Female playwrights accounted for 35% of the shows by living writers at the National Theatre in 2018/19, rising by seven percentage points compared to the previous year.

This figure is still 15% short of the NT’s stated 50/50 target for gender representation, which the theatre has said it will achieve by 2021. It is also below the 42% figure recorded in 2016/17. However, the theatre argued that it is still “on course” to meet its targets.

The statistics follow criticism of a “dispiriting” programming announcement from the theatre in March that was made up entirely of male playwrights.

The diversity statistics were published on the National Theatre’s website today (August 19) to coincide with the release of the organisation’s annual review.

The data also reveals that, in 2018/19, 46% of NT directors were female, which is an increase of 13 percentage points compared to 2017/18.

Similarly, nearly half (47%) of performers were female.

In the same period, the proportion of performers from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds was 33%, similar to the previous year (35%).

The figures also revealed that 10% of writers and 13% of directors at the National Theatre were from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds. These figures fall short of the National’s target of 20% writers and directors of colour by 2021.

Joint chief executive Lisa Burger said: “In 2018/19, 35% of work by living writers staged at the National Theatre was by women which was an increase from 28% in the previous year, while the proportion of plays directed by women in 18/19 also increased to 46% from 33%.

“In addition, the work which played in the West End was largely female-led, including Home, I’m Darling, Nine Night and Consent.”

She added: “When we publish our annual review for 19/20 next year, we will have made further progress, and we are on course to meet our targets for the following year.

“These aims are supported by our new work department commissioning more new work by female playwrights than ever before.”

The diversity statistics are published alongside the National Theatre’s annual review, which revealed that total income to the organisation was in-line with the previous year at £107 million.

The report states that a minor reduction in Arts Council funding (£0.5 million) was offset by box office performance, with ticket sales reaching 93% capacity, and an increase in other funding support.

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