'Creating Change Where it Matters the Most': Artistic Directorship and Representation in the London Theatre


This article responds to an important change in the demographic make-up of the artistic directors of London theatres in the period since 2010—a significant increase in the representation of women and people of color. This is identified as an important and overdue advance in the capacity of British theatre to represent and speak to British society in the twenty-first century. In the article, the change is quantified with specific reference to the mainstream subsidized theatres where most new plays are staged, and the circumstances in which this overdue shift has taken place are identified. Two case studies are then presented, focusing on Emma Rice’s brief tenure at the Globe (2016–18) and Indhu Rubasingham’s re-branding of the Tricycle Theatre as the Kiln (2018), to indicate the challenges that artistic directors from previously under-represented groups can face. The article concludes with an assessment of the situation in 2021 and what might lie ahead, taking into account the shifts in the cultural narrative caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. The aim is to analyze a shift which is welcome if precarious, and to consider the ways in which progress has been resisted and continues to be threatened.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.