Finalists of the biggest playwriting prize for women including Ella Hickson have argued that female writers are still “seriously under-represented” in theatre.
Hickson was speaking alongside fellow playwrights Nina Raine, Ella Road and Hilary Bettis at the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize ceremony, which celebrates plays by women and at which they were all finalists.
“While we’re edging towards more representation both for the creative side and the producing side in the West End and subsidised theatre, the statistics still suggest that [women are] seriously under-represented in both areas,” Hickson told The Stage.
“I think things like [the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize] are very useful, because while it’s lovely to be recognised and have a nice evening it’s also undeniably a motor towards making sure that plays that would otherwise not have been that well known or shown on the bigger stages [are also recognised].”
Road, who was nominated for the prize for her debut play The Phlebotomist at Hampstead Theatre, said there was still “a long way to go” in terms of female representation and called for a “shake-up of the curriculum” in schools and drama schools to bring more women writers to the fore.
She said: “I did an English degree and then went to drama school, and if I’m asked to talk about my favourite plays, automatically I can reel off all these male writers, and that’s really problematic, I should be straight in there with all the female playwrights. So that in itself is an alarm bell that things aren’t okay.”
Raine argued that there was a disparity in the number of men and women being commissioned to write adaptations in theatre, with men taking most of the jobs.
American playwright Bettis added: “There’s still a huge gap in terms of who is getting produced; female writers and people of colour are being relegated to the smaller stages.”
The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize was held at Shakespeare’s Globe on March 6 and was won by US writer Jackie Sibblies Drury for her play Fairview.