So, for those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that this article has been coming. I didn’t respond well to a recent article on What’s On Stage from Michael Coveney titled “Could men become the new minority in theatre?”
I know, right?
In truth, this article has been coming for a while, my response that is. Hell, I’ve been writing similar on gender inequality in theatre for an age but not much seems to change. Until, that was, this headline grabbing article on What’s On Stage made me think, my god, have I misread this??
And Michael makes some cracking points in his article mentioning a total of SIX plays that contain women in some form being the sign of a tidal wave that could crush gender inequality across theatre for good.
There’s Tipping the Velvet adapted by Laura Wade and directed by Lyndsey Turner – a story obviously about women. Then there’s Denise Gough getting stage time in Jeremy Herrin’s People, Places and Things at the National (a play, ahem, written by a man and directed by a man).
But no, still fair points. Because there’s Medea at the Almeida too. Rupert Goold may be directing but it is still a play about a woman and Rachel Cusk is doing the adaption. Women, women, everywhere (sort of).
And Michael rightly points out there are a lot of female creatives on Farinelli and the King. Indeed. I mean, we’ll gloss over the fact that it’s a star vehicle for Mark Rylance but, no, good point.
And these are such important points. I mean, the women, it feels like they’re everywhere. After all, there’s even more than the above. Future Conditional has given the Old Vic its first play written by a woman in a decade and Josie Rourke finally put on a play written by a woman at the Donamar with Splendour. I’m surprised he didn’t mention Headlong’s recent commitment to platforming 50/50 male/female playwrights as well.
I mean, it’s like an invasion! What fresh hell is this?? Won’t someone think of the men?!!!
Well, fear not, Michael. This slight period where women are getting jobs that they’ve been denied for so long due to blatant sexism could well be just a flash in pan. The resumption of normal service is on its way.
Medea is the last show in the Almeida Greeks season. Next season sees 100% male creatives at the Almeida with a whole season of plays written by men, directed by men – Richard Eyre will be adapting and directing Ibsen’s Little Eyolf and Robert Icke will be directing a new version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya.
And the National Theatre hasn’t been standing still. It has been celebrating a Patrick Marber hat-trick (their words, not mine). Patrick’s had three plays on concurrently across the National – The Beaux Stratagem, The Red Lion and Three Days in the Country. One man, three stages. I mean, what a relief the National didn’t think about, you know, putting on just one play from Patrick and giving more opportunity to people who aren’t male and aren’t white.
And Lyndsey Turner may have directed Tipping the Velvet but there’s no doubt that her big show this year was Hamlet where the draw of Benedict Cumberbatch alone would have sold out that run ten times over. No female actor has that draw.
There is a female writer who has that kind of draw though – the mighty JK Rowling whose Harry Potter shows will be the big draw of 2016. Scary stuff. So thank God JK has gone for male creatives to help her bring the project to the stage with John Tiffany directing and Jack Thorne writing.
So thank god for that, eh? That was pretty close. We almost had momentum for female creatives there.
I mean, heaven forbid we actually welcome diversity as an opportunity to hear different stories, embrace different viewpoints and utilise the huge potential of talent and skills that goes unused solely because the creatives concerned are female.
No, it’s good that male hegemony over theatre isn’t under serious threat yet. And heaven forbid that a reaction to women finally getting just a bit of stage time is seen as a concern, as a jeopardy. Is masculinity really so fragile that some female creatives getting some work is framed as a threat that will push men into a minority rather than embraced with excitement?