About Tonic Theatre
Tonic supports the arts and creative industries to achieve greater gender equality in their work and workforces. We design, create, and deliver tools that ensure a greater level of female talent is able to rise to the top.
You can read more about what we do at
What is Advance?
Tonic’s Advance programme brings together the Artistic Directors, Chief Executives, and senior staff of leading performing arts organisations. To date, we have worked across dance, opera, and theatre with: Almeida, Cast, Chichester Festival Theatre, Clean Break, English Touring Theatre, the Gate, Headlong, Mahogany Opera Group, National Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Northern Ballet, Northern Stage, Pentabus, Royal Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sadler’s Wells, Sheffield Theatres, Tricycle Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and the Young Vic.
These organisations recognised that something was preventing talented women in the performing arts industries from rising to the top. They wanted to understand in a nuanced and complex way why this was the case and then lead the way in addressing it.
From October 2013 to May 2014 Tonic piloted the Advance process with a cohort of 11 theatres, guiding them through a six-month period of research, reflection and activity which tasked them to take an interrogative and methodical approach to understanding the root causes behind the comparative lack of women in key creative roles. Rather than settling for quick fixes or advocating a ‘sticking plaster’ approach, Advance tasked the theatres to understand not only where barriers to female talent exist within their organisations but why.
The second cycle of the programme began in January 2016 and saw two key expansions. First the programme opened out to encompass dance and opera organisations alongside theatre companies. Secondly, the focus of what the participants explored broadened beyond women in creative roles alone; while some organisations chose to remain focused on creative roles such as choreography and conducting, others explored areas such as artist development, pathways to senior leadership, and how the culture of communication within an organisation impacts on gender balance.
Upon concluding the programme all participating organisations are required to have in place concrete and considered plans for how they will create change. This entails them working towards progress within their own organisations but also considering how, within their cohort and with Tonic’s ongoing collaboration, they can drive for industry-wide change.
This website shares what the organisations have done, what they learned and what, as a consequence, they are doing differently. It is a snapshot of the work that was done, and gives an insight into Advance’s process. We hope it will inspire future action towards achieving gender equality both onstage and off.
The 2014 Advance pilot was supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the 2016 programme by Arts Council England through Grants for the arts. Tonic’s academic partner on Advance is Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. You can read more about their role in the programme here.