For six months Tonic worked with 11 theatres. We tasked each of them to conduct thorough, complex, and honest research into how they make decisions about who writes, directs, designs and performs for them. About the stories they choose to tell on their stages. About the working environment they provide for the people they employ.
Then we asked them to dream up new ways of working.
Advance responded to increasingly loud questioning from within the theatre industry as to why, despite previous gains and recent signs of progress, when it comes to female talent being visible on the most prestigious and best resourced stages in the country, there is still far to go.
The programme sought to catalyse concentrated change within a cohort of highly influential theatres, thereby paving the way for broader, industry-wide progress.
Advance isn’t about curtailing creative freedom, nor is it about forcing theatres to employ less talented individuals. What it is about is making sure that when opportunities arise, it really is the most talented people who get them, regardless of gender.
Yes we are. Despite a recent burst of progress, there’s still a long way to go, and the presence of a small number of talented women at the top doesn’t mean we’re equal. But Advance isn’t just talking about talking; it’s about actively seeking to understand where inequalities exist, and then acting to address them.
We don’t think so. What makes Advance different is that it is led by the theatres themselves, it arises from a need that they have identified, and is designed to equip them with a sophisticated understanding of how to address inequalities at the root, rather than advocating short-term ‘sticking plaster’ solutions. This isn’t about surface change; it’s about going to the heart of these organisations’ artistic processes.