Rosalind Hewett

Bringing Feminism to the Theatre: Playwrights

Last month I kicked off a series exploring feminism and the theatre. Since writing the opening post, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for inspiration. This time I bring good news (whilst still keeping it real). I’m delighted to write that less than a week after ‘A Short History of Feminism in Theatre’ was published, theatre company Headlong announced that they were committing to a 50:50 gender balance for the commissioning of new writing.

This announcement comes after a report published by the British Theatre Consortium in collaboration with the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre found that less than a third of new plays performed in UK theatres are written by women.

The report found that in 2013;
31% – new plays by single writers written by women
24% – total performances were shows written by women
This suggests that works written by women have shorter runs than plays by men.
The report also found that new plays by women were performed in theatres 24% smaller than those which presented new work by men, and the ticket price was 23% lower.
Of the 24 new translations of plays in only 2 were solely by women.

Pretty depressing stats, aren’t they?

So, as a result of the report, Headlong evaluated the gender balance in their catalogue of work, and they found that just 35% of their productions from the past seven years had been written by women. This was despite having had hit productions such as Chimerica and The Nether by Lucy Kirkwood and Jennifer Haley respectively. As far as I’m aware, they are now one of the first theatre companies to publicly commit to equality. They currently have eight plays on commission, four by men, four by women, and they plan to commission a further six this year, three by men, three by women. You can find out more about Headlong here.

I’d like to conclude this post by celebrating some kick-ass female playwright success. You may have heard about the film adaptation of verbatim musical London Road which was released in cinemas on 12th June. London Road was first produced by the National Theatre and had two hugely successful sell-out runs there.


The cast of Alecky Blythe’s ‘London Road’

It was praised by critics as groundbreaking. The concept, book and lyrics are by Alecky Blythe. She broke new ground with London Road, and I’ll end this post with Michael Billington’s words from his review of the second run of the show at the National Theatre’s Olivier;

“Conventional musicals, even at their best, take us into a world of fantasy. This miraculously innovative show finds a new way of representing reality…
[London Road] not only explores the way it takes a crisis to engender community spirit but opens up rich possibilities for musical theatre.”




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