West End sisters are doing it for themselves

Just when you thought that Viva Forever! had put Girl Power back about 40 years in the West End, the women of Theatreland are rising up – and it’s about time too.

Only the other week we were singing the praises of Rosemary Squire (see our interview with the Ambassador Theatre Group Join Chief Exec here), in which we said:

“London Theatre is an industry that continues to be dominated by men: yes, the Garrick Club, that exclusive enclave for theatre folk, still bars women members, and yes this week the National Theatre did appoint its sixth consecutive male artistic director. And that’s despite the fact that more women than men both book and attend London theatre. So having a woman at the top of the industry is not only hugely positive but something Ms Squire can be especially proud of.”

And so it was also heartening to read a letter from Jean Rogers, the formidable vice-president of Equity, in the Standard this week. In her letter on 28 October she said:

“How I agree with Ambassador Theatre Group co-owner Rosemary Squire about gender balance in theatre. Equity has been campaigning particularly on the issue of older actresses’ work opportunities since 2005 and at conferences I have argued for more women on theatre boards if we are to see the changes we long for brought about. The correlation between poor gender-balance on stage and board make-up emerging from research by the Guardian last year was striking, with none of the other best-funded theatres coming close to the near gender parity at the Royal Court. Squire advocates quotas for boards. Surely artistic freedom, the usual cry when gender balance is called for, can’t be an argument against that?”

Rogers’s comments were inspired by Nick Curtis’s excellent piece on women in the West End in the Standard last week (“Centre stage: the women in charge of theatreland“) in which he interviewed ATG’s Rosemary Squire, The Donmar’s Kate Pakenham and Josie Rourke, The Royal Court’s Vicky Featherstone and Lucy Davies, The Old Vic and The Criterion’s Sally Greene, theatre producer and Nimax Theatre’s Nica Burns, the Tricycle Theatre’s Indhu Rubasingham and West End producer Sonia Friedman.

There are of course many more examples, including Mamma Mia! (and Viva Forever!) producer Judy Craymer, Executive Director of Sadler’s Well Laura Stevenson and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory producer at Neal Street Productions Caro Newling.

There has never been a stronger power base of women within the West End but it seems that there is still a long way to go.

📷 Main photo: Just when you thought that Viva Forever! had put Girl Power back about 40 years in the West End, the women of Theatreland are rising up - and it's about time too.

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