The National Theatre has come under fire from industry figures after announcing a programme of work made up entirely by male playwrights.
All six plays in the season are written by male playwrights, including ‘Master Harold’… and the Boys by Athol Fugard and Andy Stanton’s adaptation of his own book, Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear, into a musical.
The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and industry figures have expressed their disappointment at the announcement, labelling it “dispiriting”.
Musicals writer Jenifer Toksvig and playwright and actor Deborah McAndrew, of the WGGB Theatre Committee, said: “We’re obviously disappointed that the National Theatre has chosen to announce a new season without a single female playwright.
“How many announcements like this, and subsequent expressions of outrage from women writers, will it take before we see change?”
They added: “Other companies across the country, who are less well-funded, are busting a gut to be more representative in programming new work from female and diverse writers. Our members and audiences around the country expect more from the National.”
Others expressed disappointment on social media, with director Sara Joyce pointing out that five of the six plays were directed by men, with Amy Hodge being the only female director in the season. Joyce said “there is no excuse for this”.
Playwright Chris Bush tweeted: “I love the National Theatre, I really, really do. They’ve been great to me and I’d chew my arm off to keep working there. But this morning’s announcement really is dispiriting. Not a single female playwright. One (brilliant) female director.”
She added: “And look, they’re working with some totally brilliant men – hugely talented men with important things to say who absolutely deserve their spot. But I wonder how it feels to be one of those men this morning. I wonder if it feels like you’re only competing with half the population.”
Actor, comedian and composer Vikki Stone added: “From my own experience: lots of producing houses (National included) will take the meetings, and listen to your ideas, but it’s [a] very very small number of people/institutions that will take them over the line.
“I think it’s a commercial thing about shifting tickets. Women = risk.”
National Theatre director Rufus Norris said the theatre “is fully committed to reflecting the diversity of the nation on stage, and has set clear targets for increasing representation”.
In 2016, he pledged to ensure female directors and living playwrights make up 50% of the theatre’s output by 2021.
“The shows going on sale in our upcoming booking period only reflect a portion of the work currently playing or coming up on our stages. On the South Bank are works by Caryl Churchill, Githa Sowerby, Helen Edmundson and Ella Hickson, while in the West End Nine Night by Natasha Gordon has just ended its run, and Laura Wade’s Home, I’m Darling is playing before touring across the country,” he said.
“It will be followed on tour by Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey. The majority of those productions are led by female directors. Later in the year there will be more plays by female writers in each of our three theatres on the South Bank,” he added.