Sphinx 30, a landmark programme for female playwrights

Published: 19 July 2020
Reporter: Sandra Giorgetti

Sphinx Theatre Company

Sphinx Theatre has revealed the playwrights participating in the pilot Sphinx Lab initiative, a key arm of Sphinx 30, the company's 30th anniversary programme.

Initially, fifteen female playwrights have been paired with leading theatres. Each writer will receive £1,000 and attend the Sphinx Lab, where they will be tutored by a team of theatre professionals to include Dame Rosemary Squire, Toni Racklin, Stephanie Sirr and Brigid Larmour and playwrights Winsome Pinnock, April de Angelis and Timberlake Wertenbaker.

Jennifer Tuckett, literary director of Sphinx Theatre Company, said, “we are delighted to be working with 15 of the UK’s leading theatre companies to mark the 30th anniversary of the UK’s oldest women’s theatre company.

"I hope the programme, support for female playwrights and the work on developing an ongoing programme to support female playwrights in the UK we’ll complete with the theatres will help contribute to addressing the likelihood of the coronavirus pandemic hitting women particularly hard, for example Sphinx’s year-long research project with myself at the University of Cambridge last year found that theatres are more likely to (incorrectly) view women as a risk, which is likely to become even more problematic as we go into a risk-averse post-coronavirus culture, and our forthcoming research report has also found that women in the arts are being hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, for example they’re more likely to be in part-time or freelance roles rather than full-time positions, more likely to undertake the majority of childcare responsibilities and domestic tasks which will have increased under lockdown, more likely to undertake caring responsibilities for older relatives, and, more generally, two of the few careers which have more women are education and health, both of which have involved workers placing themselves at risk during the pandemic, and domestic violence is also increasing.”

The first group of playwright-theatre pairings is:

  • Graeae Theatre Company: Anita Kelly
  • Derby Theatre: Rommi Smith
  • Hull Truck Theatre: Maureen Lennon
  • Kali Theatre: Satinder Chohan
  • Nottingham Playhouse: Jane Upton
  • Leeds Playhouse: Gemma Bedeau
  • Octagon Theatre Bolton: Punam Ramchurn
  • Bush Theatre: Sarah Connors
  • Red Ladder Theatre Company: Bea Webster
  • Theatr Clwyd: Ming Ho
  • Salisbury Playhouse: Hannah Treadaway
  • Stephen Joseph Theatre: Janice Okoh
  • Watford Palace Theatre: Suzette Coon
  • Yellow Earth Theatre: Joanne Lau
  • Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres: Ginni Manning

A further cohort of playwrights will be selected through an open call to ensure representation across different levels of writing experience.