Why “female-led” theatre?

Female-led Theatre and the Representation of Women in Theatre by Ivy Lamont


Are you tired of seeing the same female characters on stage and time and time again? Of persistently auditioning for the role of ‘the girlfriend’, ‘the mother’, or ‘the victim’? Let’s face it, we would all like to see some more dynamic and three-dimensional female characters we could really get our teeth into. It’s shocking that 65% of audience members are women yet most of the time, the full wealth and complexity of our being has yet to be translated to the stage.

Why is this?

It seems our female writers have gotten a handle on exploring the depths and flaws of the female psyche, having experienced it first hand for themselves. Then why is there a lack of this in our theatres?

The first thing to consider would be that female playwrights just aren’t being given enough access to our major platforms. In the year spanning from 2017-2018 only 28% of the plays performed at The National Theatre were written by women, despite the fact that the organisation aims to achieve a 50/50 gender balance by the year 2021. This isn’t helped by the fact that ultimately the decisions regarding programming are left to those in higher positions which are – you guessed it – predominantly male. This being said, The National Theatre is one of the few well-recognised organisations taking big steps towards gender (income) parity, paying their female employees 3% more than their male counterparts in 2017. Whilst their neighbours at the Southbank Centre have yet to settle their 18.3% disparity in favour of men… 


But let’s get back to topic.

Where do we go from here? 

Ideally, we’d like to see more women in top managerial roles in established theatres, as they so often pave the way for smaller institutions. In other words, we need female-led theatre! While we are seeing increasingly more women in these positions, there continues to be slow evolvement in this area. 

Secondly – and it’s great that this is already taking a strong root in our industry – it is so important to keep creating female-led work. In doing so we are taking a proactive approach towards bringing the female voices and characters we want to see on stage… working from the ground up in order to change the quota on what is being offered in theatre. 

Finally, keep spreading the word! In order to address this imbalance we must first acknowledge the full weight of it. There can be a tendency to limit the conversation to specifically gender-oriented platforms. This reduces the issue to reach only audiences who actively participate in these platforms and isolates the problem. The more we can keep the conversation alive and circulating, the more we can bring it out of the shadows and into the light. 

The whispers are catching and the winds are changing – let’s create a storm!

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