In my work as a director, gender and the representation of women is often foregrounded, whether on inherently feminist pieces such as Eggs by Florence Keith-Roach or just because every member of the team happens to be a woman, as with Goodstock by Lost Watch. I’ve experienced incredible support working with more experienced directors Zoe Svendsen and Natalie Abrahami and as more women work in theatre as directors and writers, the opportunities increase for women to be represented in more complex and interesting characters on stage.
Its crucial to examine the ways in which we are representing women; how prominent or proactive they are, what is expected of them, how they interact with other women. There is still a lack of diversity – we need more visibility for disabled women and minorities and the theatre is not liberated from the beauty value system.
I don’t think women in theatre find it any more difficult to succeed than in other professions. We live in a patriarchy that is far from equal. The theatre has always been a liberal space with high levels of tolerance and inclusivity but the conversation around gender is ongoing – and we are all responsible for progressing equality. I certainly fall into the trap of excusing or qualifying myself when pitching my work and I have to ask myself if a male director would feel the need to be ‘nice’ and accomodating, for fear of seeming arrogant and pushy. We trust men who behave with confidence as we readily confer authority on them. There is a tendency to be more suspicious of women.
There are lots of fantastic women in senior positions in British theatre today who are amazing role models. Having said that I do think men and women are held to different standards – it isn’t hard to imagine how the controversy over Emma Rice at the Globe would have been framed differently if it had been a man: hailed as an enfant terrible, a maverick.
Looking around at my contemporaries I feel positive about the way that the gender imbalance is being addressed – female playwrights and theatre makers produce work that invariably features rich, complex female characters and as these artists continue to develop we will have a much wider canon of stories led by women, who drive the action of the play.
On Run we have a female sound designer, lighting designer, stage manager, and we’ve had a young female student on work experience in the room with us. It is a gay male love story, written by a man and performed by man but the work will only be made richer by our diverse team. For me it’s always important to have female creatives on a project, regardless of content, and especially when the story is not female-led.