The National Theatre is being forced to change the sex of some Shakespearian characters in order to address the lack of women on stage, the theatre’s director, Sir Nicholas Hytner, has revealed.
The theatre “struggles to put on stage a proportion of female to male actors that accurately reflects its audience, or indeed the nation enshrined in its title,” Hynter told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.
He revealed that the National Theatre has “started to take matters into our own hands by changing the sex of some of Shakespeare’s productions. In a modern-dress production of Timon of Athens, there’s no reason for the senator Sempronius not to become the senator Sempronia.”
Hytner – who oversees the Olivier, Lyttelton and Cottesloe theatres – did, however, highlight the involvement of women behind the scenes within the company.
“When we did Antigone a year or so ago, it was also directed by a woman – Polly Findlay. A few years ago Katie Mitchell directed Euripedes Iphigenia at Aulis and Women of Troy by the same playwright. And next year Medea will be directed by Carrie Cracknell.
“Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, all of whose actors were men in masks, would be astonished,” he added.