The Irish Times view on gender equality moving centre-stage in Irish theatre

A positive example for other areas of the arts and elsewhere in society where women are underrepresented

File photograph of a ‘Waking the Feminists’ demonstration  in front of the Abbey Theatre. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

File photograph of a ‘Waking the Feminists’ demonstration in front of the Abbey Theatre. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

Irish theatre has come through a difficult and challenging period of introspection and examination of its ethos. First it had to confront the gender imbalance and bias brought to public attention by the Waking the Feminists movement. This seismic grassroots campaign was quickly followed by the allegations of inappropriate behaviour against the Gate Theatre’s former director Michael Colgan, adding “dignity at work” issues to the list of necessary reforms.

The theatre sector has now responded on a collective basis to these concerns in the form of a gender equity policy document that is a blueprint for a new and welcome model of practice. The document includes a detailed series of measures that have emerged out of a heart-and-soul dialogue within the sector. The requirements will apply to the future mechanisms of the organisations and venues that have signed up to the policy which covers both on-stage and backstage considerations: commissioning and casting as well as staff training and board membership.

Among these progressive steps, one that might raise eyebrows is the introduction of widescale “gender-blind casting”, particularly if it resulted in any distortion of authorial intent and design. Not every text is as malleable or amenable to gender interchangeability as the Shakespearean one. This won’t necessarily fully address the dominance of the male voice or inequality in theatre, so the priority must surely be to ensure ample female presence on stage through more present-day writers being women and, as the document correctly advocates, a re-examination of the canon.

What now remains, of course, is implementation of the aims of this shake up – sensibly set down to be achieved over a five-year period. Theatre is but one corner of the cultural landscape and what has been accomplished with great momentum since the Waking the Feminists initiative first raised its flag stands as a example not only in other areas of the arts but also elsewhere in society where there is an under-representation of women.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.