The National Voice, the Australian Writers’ Guild’s annual survey of Australia’s 10 largest theatre companies, has concluded that while the overall number of Australian plays in 2018 has increased, original Australian voices on stage have hit a standstill, making up less than 50% of main stage theatre seasons over four years.
The research, which focuses on the main stage programs of each company, found that of the 94 plays to be staged across Australia in 2018, 58 (62%) are written by an Australian playwright.
It is an encouraging number, up from the last two years, however concern has been raised that the increase in Australian works is not reflected in an increase in original works and voices – rather a jump in the number of adaptations accounts for the difference from last year – with the report noting the challenges of sustaining a viable practice as a playwright when less than 50% of the work programmed by the 10 main theatre companies is original Australian plays.
Programming of original Australian plays thus appears to be at a standstill, making up 47% of the main stage theatre seasons in 2018, and only 42% of main stage theatre seasons over the last four years, suggesting a hesitancy from companies to take a chance on increasing the number of new voices in a season.
The report also notes the lack of Australian revivals over four years – there were on average only five Australian revivals per year – indicating a disconnect between Australia’s rich theatre history and a continued life for these works on the stage.
However, the Guild is cautiously optimistic that the overall number of Australian works in 2018 reflects a commitment from theatre companies to programming Australian playwrights, and are keen to see these numbers increase in future.
‘Whether this be through increased programming of original works, giving further life to recently produced works or by reviving plays from Australia’s rich theatre canon, our national theatre culture – and the livelihoods of our playwrights – relies on a commitment by the 10 major companies to diverse Australian programming,’ the report concludes.
In surveying gender parity, The National Voice found that of the 58 plays with an Australian credited playwright, 36 (62%) were by an Australian female playwright, with the remaining 22 (38%) by male playwrights. Encouragingly, for the first time since the report began in 2015, all 10 theatre companies achieved gender parity across their Australian-written seasons, a goal the Guild has long stated is attainable and hopes to see continued and reported on in future.
The National Voice 2018 surveys the programming of the Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Queensland Theatre, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Black Swan State Theatre Company, Belvoir St Theatre, Malthouse Theatre, Ensemble Theatre, Griffin Theatre Company and La Boite Theatre Company.
The first AWG National Voice survey was published in 2015.
Read the full report HERE.