“A couple of years ago, I attended Sphinx Theatre’s Vamps, Vixens and Feminists conference at the National. Lots of points and arguments have stayed with me from that day, but nothing more than the 17 per cent figure. Flip that statistic around – 83 per cent of plays audiences see are written by men.
I’d like to say ‘how boring’, but I really love a lot of work by male writers. I book for a fair few as soon as I see their plays advertised. That’s not really the point. The point is ‘how worrying’, because if female voices aren’t coming through, if we’re losing stories because of what at least one researcher in the States has found to be (put bluntly) prejudice, then that can’t be good for theatre which is a story-telling industry. How many brilliant, relevant and much-needed stories are we simply not hearing?
We have a serious problem and I think there are two ways to address it: campaign and raise awareness (which Sphinx and 17Percent are already doing, amongst other brilliant work), or try and fill that gap as much as possible by putting on more high quality female-penned work, which will cause an audience to ask the industry: why aren’t we seeing more of this?
That’s what Agent 160 Theatre Company is about. Our name is taken from Aphra Behn’s code-name when she was a spy under Charles II. We’re a company of female writers dedicated to putting on exceptional work across the UK. We don’t want to be pigeon-holed by our location; nor do we wish to be pigeon-holed by our gender in terms of the content of our work. As a writer-led company, we empower our writers. And we have no interest in being niche.
For all of these reasons, we’ve decided to launch with Agent 160 Presents Agent 160 – a show heading to three cities, using the short play form to bring you work from a variety of female voices. We play two separate nights of shorts at Chapter in Cardiff on February 17 and 18 at 7.30pm; Theatre503 in London on February 19 and 20 at 7.45pm; and The Arches in Glasgow on February 22 and 23 at 7.30pm. Do come and find out more about us. For more information and booking links, visit www.agent160theatre.co.uk and follow us on twitter – @agent160theatre.”
Artistic Director, Agent 160 Theatre Company
*UPDATE* Read Lyn Gardner’s blog on the topic.