Agent 160 launched, we held panel discussions at each venue discussing women and theatre. At the end of the session in Glasgow, one of the panellists said she hoped we wouldn't continue hosting such talks. She'd been doing them for years. She didn't think they helped. The most important thing, she said, was to get work by women onto the stage.
At the time, I completely agreed. I thought the talks were important as part of the launch but I didn't feel they were a huge part of our work. And I still do agree that getting plays written by women on is more important. But in terms of hosting the talks themselves? I've since changed my mind.
Why the change? A comment from a playwright-friend of mine along the lines of: "That's all very well, but our generation wasn't around for those talks. Maybe we need to have them too." And I think we do. Talking, debate and discussion is never a bad thing. Progress isn't always linear. Sometimes topics need to be revisited and reassessed according to the current climate.
And progress can be made through talking. A few months back, I attended Devoted and Disgruntled at Sherman Cymru in Cardiff. It was refreshing to see thoughts and opinions changing when it became clear that what people thought was happening on the ground, wasn't; that the presumed situation wasn't the actual one; what people thought playwrights wanted wasn't in fact what they did want. So too with the women and theatre debate - some people have said they think the problem isn't in fact with commissioning, but with a failure to deliver final drafts. Others have voiced concern that women directors don't want to work with women writers for fear of being pigeonholed. Debate - talk - opens up detailed arguments that need to be worked through for sustained change. Sometimes sweeping change is needed and welcome. But for real sustained change that will last decades and improve the social lot, the devil is pretty much always in the detail. And the detail tends to come up in extensive conversation.
- Agent 160 is co-producing the talk Women and the Arts at Theatre503 on Wednesday, February 27.
- The discussion will take place after that evening's performance of Desolate Heaven and will last about an hour.
- Other panellists include Rebecca Atkinson-Lord (co-director of Oval House Theatre), Amber Massie-Blomfield (principal consultant at Borkwoski.do), Pia Furtado (director), Honour Bayes (freelance theatre journalist).
- To book, visit www.theatre503.com or telephone 020 7978 7040.