I have been interested in the theatre since I was a child. I’ve acted in many plays, studied drama at university and started directing my teens. I have also been struck by how it is “news” when a new play is by a woman and it starts getting good reviews. It is even bigger “news” if the work is produced at a major venue. It should just be normal, not “news”!
The National Theatre announced last year how it was aiming to have a 50:50 balance by 2025 and then a few months late announced an all male programme!
We see unconscious gender bias everywhere. In the media particularly. Having worked for the BBC I always notice this in so many programmes. “University Challenge” for instance we are lucky if there is one women on a team. Often there is just one woman for the whole programme. One team is often all male. We are told this is because women don’t come forward. My answer is “Well go and find them then”. Recently the BBC’s Media Correspondent Amol Rajan made a programme “How To Break Into The Elite”. It featured cases studies of three young men who were finding it hard even with a First Class degree. One woman was briefly mentioned, but her male counterpart was clearly more important. So women couldn’t even break into the programme never mind the so called elite! That’s fifty percent of the population. What on earth was Amol Rajan and his producer thinking of? I note the producer was a woman. When I worked for the BBC all my programmes had a good gender balance. The BBC also sent us on courses on diversity. Did Amol Rajan miss his?
In the theatre this article by Julia Pascal is pertinent and informative. The theatre is no better. Just one fifth of English Theatres are led by women who between them control 13% of the Arts Council budget, Julia tells us. Information gathered by Sphinx Theatre. Both Julia and Sue Parrish , Artistic Director of Sphinx Theatre Company, feature in our “Taking The Stage- Women in the Performing Arts” on 12th, 13th and 14th September at MK Gallery.
I wanted to do something about this whole situation and celebrate all the wonderful women working in theatre. I am also keenly aware that there are few roles for women over fifty. I wanted to challenge that too. I am a woman in that age bracket and there are few roles. Even when there are they are often peripheral. Why? We have amazing stories to tell. So that is why we have commissioned a new play by the brilliant Julia Pascal to tell such stories. “Three Sisters” tells the story of her mother and her mother’s sisters. They are older women in the play and play their younger selves. It’s brilliant.
We also have “Tapestry” by Chloe Todd Fordham also featuring older women. And Sarah Wanendeya has written a piece “Becoming The Invisible Woman” written from her worn experience.
There’s lots more too. More information on the plays, panels, discussions and tickets are now on sale www.mkgallery.org
We have an amazing line up of National and local figures, including Maureen Beattie (President of Equity), Jenny Sealey (CEO and Director of Graeae Theatre Company), Sue Parrish, Julia Pascal , Anna Berry, Urja Thakore, Polly Kemp , Jo Blake, Caroline Devine and many, many more!