Which Irish theatre companies have the worst record regarding women?

New research commissioned by Waking The Feminists shows theatre companies with biggest state subsidy have worst gender record

It's been one year since #WakingTheFeminists formed and took to the stage of the Abbey Theatre.

 

Women are significantly under-represented across most roles in Irish theatre, and companies that receive the most State support have the worst record on gender equality, a new report has found.

Gender Counts: An Analysis of Gender in Irish Theatre 2006-2015, is based on results from an audit of the country’s 10 largest publicly-funded theatres, theatre companies and festivals, and was commissioned by #WakingTheFeminists, the campaign for equality for women in Irish theatre set up in late 2015.

The research, focusing on 10 of the top Arts Council-funded organisations that produce or present theatre in Ireland, found that the four highest-funded had the lowest female representation. Women were least represented at the Gate and Abbey theatres, while Dublin Theatre Festival and Druid also had low festivals of female representation. More broadly, researchers noted “a general pattern of an inverse relationship between levels of funding and female representation”.

Women were best represented in The Ark and at Rough Magic Theatre Company. Not surprisingly, the report notes that the gender of the artistic director of a theatre company will have a significant impact on the percentage of shows directed by a woman. Rough Magic (80 per cent) and Druid (81 per cent), where Lynne Parker and Garry Hynes are the respective artistic directors, showed the highest representation of female directors.

Waking the Feminists, which began at a demonstration at the Abbey Theatre (above), has presented its findings on gender parity in Irish theatre. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Waking the Feminists, which began at a demonstration at the Abbey Theatre (above), has presented its findings on gender parity in Irish theatre. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

However, only eight per cent of plays at the Gate from 2006 to 2015 were directed by women and, in six of the 10 years studied, no plays at the Gate had female directors. The Gate and Abbey theatres also had the lowest representation of female authors at six per cent and 17 per cent respectively.

Conducted by a team of six researchers in collaboration with the Irish Theatre Institute and the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at NUI Galway, the study builds on provisional findings reported at a #WakingTheFeminists event in the Abbey last November. “Some of the provisional data have changed marginally since the provisional report due to the provision of extra data; in most cases, there is no change,” the authors say.

The report aims to provide information that can form the basis for evidence-based solutions to the under-representation of women in the sector, and to investigate how public funding relates to female representation in the selected organisations.

“It is now evident, not just from anecdotal accounts but from statistical analysis, that Irish theatre has a significant gender problem,” the authors conclude. “Women are poorly represented in the majority of key roles in the top-funded theatre organisations in Ireland. The information contained in this report is the first step along a path towards achieving gender parity.”

Overall, data collected on 1,155 productions and on 9,205 individual roles found that only 28 per cent of works produced over the 10 years were authored by women. Women directed 37 per cent of the productions surveyed, while casts were 42 per cent female. The research does not differentiate between leading or supporting roles, nor does it provide information on relative levels of remuneration, areas which the authors suggest require further investigation.

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