Friday, 7 February 2014

Women in theatre - January 2014

As Lisa Stansfield once (almost) said, ‘I may not be a lady, but I’m all about the women’. It is no secret that I love actresses - if I had to name a list of my most highly rated performers, the vast majority would undoubtedly be female. Yet the theatre that I love doesn’t always serve them so well. In one week in November last year, I ended up seeing Twelve Angry Men, followed by the Union’s all-male HMS Pinafore, followed by Propeller’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – some good theatre to be sure but not a woman on stage to be seen. 

Others have picked up on this – this writer performed the Bechdel test on her theatregoing and this one made a ‘modest proposal’ to try and see work made by an equal balance of men and women. And it was the latter that got me thinking, what would the balance be on my theatregoing, which by any stretch of the imagination comes pretty close to being all-encompassing (not that I’m saying anything about the type of theatre Mr Haydon chooses but…you know…) So I’ve been keeping a tally of the gender divide in terms of actors, writers, directors and designers, with sound and light people included where named. See the results after the jump. 

The headline figures 
% of women in the 35 shows seen in January 

Actors: 39% 
Writers: 29% 
Directors: 40% 
Designers: 29% 
Light: 23% 
Sound: 13% 

So out of 35 shows seen (a mixture of new openings, tours, long-runners and also including three readings) and their 327 cast members, 126 were female, which is perhaps better than one might have expected, though still far from ideal. 10 of the 35 were written or co-written by women, and 14 directed. Creatively, things are less positive though with only 9 having a designer credit, 7 on the lighting side (Paule Constable almost single-handedly accounting for that figure!) and just 4 employed in sound design, the last no less depressing for its predictability. 

It’s an issue that, in its wider form (not just cast but creative), has long percolated in cultural discourse and was particularly highlighted after the National Theatre’s 50th anniversary last year. But as a kicker, can one really justify limiting this conversation to gender. If one complains that the NT, in this case, wasn’t representative of women, shouldn’t one also point out the other disparities – in terms of race, disability, sexuality… It may mean picking a battle that can’t necessarily be won, but it feels important to acknowledge that gender is only part of the battle. 

Easier said than done of course, I failed at the first hurdle, unable to work out a methodology that would, or even could, capture such personal data about people. And even then it is fraught with difficulty – what ethnic categorisations would be appropriate? What wording would I use? (If asked the question ‘do you consider yourself to have a disability?’ I would always say no, although if you ask me straight out, then I would say yes, I’m deaf – it just doesn’t factor into my life in that way. So if anyone has any clue of how I might audit February onwards in more depth, then feel free to suggest ways in which I could manage it.



Appendix (aka my working)

(data collected by me and quite possibly erroneous in places, though I did try my best) 

January
Cast
Women
%
Writer
Director
Designer
Light
Sound
35
327
126
39%
10
14
9
7
4
A Lady of Little Sense
10
4
40%
N
N
N
N
N
American Psycho
14
7
50%
N
N
Y
N
N
Blind
6
1
17%
N
N
Y
N
n/a
Blurred Lines
8
8
100%
N
Y
Y
Y
N
Bring Up The Bodies
21
5
24%
Y
N
N
Y
N
Carthage
7
3
43%
N
N
N
Y
N
Ciphers
4
2
50%
Y
Y
N
N
N
Cracked
5
3
60%
N
Y
n/a
n/a
n/a
Don Gil of the Green Breeches
10
4
40%
N
N
N
N
N
Fiji Land
3
0
0%
N
Y
Y
N
N
Hamlet
12
3
25%
N
N
N
N
N
Happy Days
2
1
50%
N
Y
Y
Y
N
Happy Days the musical
17
7
41%
N
N
N
N
N
Jumpers for Goalposts
5
1
20%
N
N
Y
N
N
King Lear
20
5
25%
N
N
N
N
N
Little Black Book
2
1
50%
N
Y
N
N
N
Lost Boy
12
5
42%
N
N
N
N
N
Mamma Mia
33
17
52%
Y
Y
N
N
N
Protest Song
1
0
0%
N
Y
Y
N
Y
Punishment without Revenge
10
4
40%
Y
N
N
N
N
Putting It Together
5
2
40%
N
N
N
N
N
Rapture Blister Burn
5
4
80%
Y
N
N
N
N
Sherry and Narcotics
2
1
50%
Y
Y
n/a
n/a
n/a
Tell Me On A Sunday
1
1
100%
N
N



The Blackest Black
3
1
33%
N
N
N
N
Y
The Body of an American
2
0
0%
N
N
N
N
Y
The Keepers of Infinite Space
8
2
25%
Y
Y
N
Y
N
The Light Princess
26
11
42%
Y
Y
Y
Y
N
The Pass
4
1
25%
N
N
Y
N
Y
The Robbers
12
3
25%
N
N
N
N
N
The Undone Years
7
3
43%
N
N
n/a
n/a
n/a
The Weir
5
1
20%
N
Y
N
N
N
Thebes
12
3
25%
N
Y
N
N
N
What The Women Did
12
7
58%
Y
Y
N
N
N
Wolf Hall
21
5
24%
Y
N
N
Y
N

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