The National Theatre in London has set a 50:50 gender balance goal in terms of the directors and living writers by 2021. Organization director Rufus Norris announced a commitment to “360 degree diversity,” stating that “gender balance across the whole organization is massively important” as he unveiled the National Theatre’s plans for the latest season. This season includes a color-blind revivals of Amadeus and Twelfth Night, with Tamsin Greig as a genderswapped Malvolio (Malvolia) and Peter Pan with a female actor playing Hook. It also includes new productions from playwrights Lucy Kirkwood, Bryony Kimmings, Nina Raine, and Gillian Slovo. Norris spoke about the importance of the goal:
It’s crucial to look at writers and directors… and we would hope by 2021 that we get to a stage with directors and living writers where we have a 50:50 gender balance.
There are a lot of women playwrights and women directors coming through, so it’s our responsibility to encourage that and reap the benefits.
In terms of BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) representation, Norris states that BAME performers made up 30% of NT’s stages last year, calling it a “healthy place” but also acknowledging the work needed throughout the entire theatre. Norris has made previous comments that call for diversity in theatre, which shows in NT’s productions:
I think it is very important that we reflect the city and the country we are in. We have to be national in terms of what we are debating, the subjects we are looking at, and particularly the people and stories we are representing.
Diversity campaigner Lenny Henry, whom Norris calls “a great ambassador for theatre and the arts” has also joined the board. Norris has also brought Act for Change. Although I’m pretty far from South Bank, London, I’m a big fan of National Theatre Live which brings British theatre to cinemas around the world. It’s how I saw their Everyman adaptation with Chiwetel Ejiofor, which was also written by the amazing Carol Ann Duffy. I’m definitely excited to see what kind of productions we’ll be seeing in the future.
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