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Theatre still ‘a million miles’ from gender parity, claims Adjoa Andoh

Most arts institutions in the UK are “still a million miles away” from gender parity, actor, director and writer Adjoa Andoh has argued.

She made the comments as part of a panel on directing in the 21st century as part of the Women and Power Festival at Shakespeare’s Globe, where she recently co-directed Richard II with a company made up entirely of women of colour.

Richard II review at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, London – ‘comes alive with a renewed relevance’ [1]

“I feel like most artistic institutions in this country are still a million miles away from parity. The push is on, and in some ways I think we have gone backwards from when I started out in the mid-1980s,” she said.

She added that female directors were often labelled as “strident, pushy, or nagging” when they insisted on working in their own particular way.

She said: “If you’re not careful, you get the reputation of being strident, pushy or nagging. All those words that are about ‘naughty woman’ and that still goes on – that has not gone away.

“It’s the same old gravy. We’ve not crossed the horizon into Wonderland yet, not by a long, long, long way. It’s about holding your nerve and getting together with other women directors and going: ‘Does that really fuck you off?’ You need to give each other the confidence to go back and do the work.”

Andoh described directors and artistic directors of buildings as “gatekeepers”, and praised Globe artistic director Michelle Terry for “saying yes” where another artistic director may not have given that opportunity.

She added: “I would love there to be more directors who are opening the gates.”

Also speaking on the panel, actor, writer and director Athena Stevens echoed Andoh’s comments.

“I’m eager to see a giant shift in how we claim our stories, how we work for dramatic opportunity in gender reversals, in casting individuals with disabilities and playing with race, and looking at the whole being, rather than looking at that cis white body that we might automatically default to when we first start reading the play.

“So for me its about having institutions, much like Michelle Terry has done, that say we will do this and will lead and damn the ticket sales,” she said.

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