Twenty-six shows. Two female directors

By Alice Chambers

As the autumnal winds blow us back up north, I have found myself reflecting on the last few months, more specifically my trips to the theatre. From the Edinburgh Fringe to the Barbican, from improvised comedy to spoken word, this summer I have been lucky enough to appreciate a range of performances. However, what struck me was this: out of the twenty-six shows I saw, only two were directed by women.

For a creative industry that is very much populated by the fairer sex, it is strange to realise that the managerial roles are mostly left to men. When I spoke to Cressida Peever who wrote and produced the engaging Sex Education, I was impressed by her determination to expose her authentic creativity to the critical public (and with such successful results). Moreover, Lions and Tigers at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, directed by Pooja Ghai, was particularly stunning in its representation of India under colonist occupation. What is clear is that women are challenging conventions and competing with – and often rising above – their male counterparts.

With these thoughts in mind, I was left to think about Durham and its wealth of female actresses, directors, and writers. In an environment that encourages new and old writing for the experienced and inexperienced, do we promote both female and male leadership on the stage? I would argue that the directorship weighs mainly on the female side. But why does the number of female directors drop so drastically after university? The unexpected announcement of Michelle Terry as the new director of the Globe has created much buzz around this question.

However, it is not that which we should be concerned about, but the previous dismissal of Emma Rice. It is said that this was owing to “a lack of respect from the board” and her exclusion “from the rooms where decisions are made.” Perhaps, it is simply as a result of the clash between a traditionalist board and ‘Rice the innovator’. Or perhaps, a strongminded, questioning woman threatened the board. It would not be surprising then if so few women shied away from tackling not only a creative barrier, but a gender one too. I am excited to see what decisions Terry will make in her reign.

Photograph by City of Boston Archives via Creative Commons

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