The continuing under-representation of women across many levels of society is well-documented. Theatre specifically has notoriously poor roles for women compared to those for men, usually taking supporting roles and often as a love interest for the male lead. Even “strong female leads” across the mediums of theatre, film and television have their independence thwarted by what can be an at best secondary and at worst unnecessary love story plot.
A study conducted by WomenArts found that the tendency for women playwrights to write more female parts was largely counteracted by the fact that they are outnumbered 3 to 1 by male writers. Gender inequality is clearly a deep seated issue in theatre, however no one quite knows the best way to resolve it. Fortunately, modern playwrights are a fairly liberal bunch, with self-identified feminists of both genders taking on the task of crafting female characters worth putting on stage. Male writers seem to be becoming more aware of the importance of complex depictions of women in their plays, yet it’s rarely attributed to a pursuit of an overtly feminist ideology. Simon Longman and Daniel Dingsdale, two exciting new voices in theatre, both offer up an example of men’s writing challenging the dominance of male roles for the stage, with the most egalitarian motivation of all – that of writing a good character.