50 Women in Theatre


This book about women in theatre explores the history of women in theatre from Aphra Behn to Caryl Churchill, and provides an overview of influential women in post-war feminist theatre. Also includes 25 exclusive interviews with leading women theatre-makers, inspiring us to create a truly equal and inclusive theatre today.


Early Stage Pioneers by Naomi Paxton
Women in Theatre: Post-War to Today by Susan Croft
Towards a more Inclusive Theatre  by Gabrielle Brooks

Since 1660 when actresses first began performing on the English stage, women have forged bright careers in theatre, while men called the shots. Four hundred years of women playwrights, from Aphra Behn to Caryl Churchill, yet plays by women make up less than a quarter of staged productions in the UK, leading to a lack of central roles for women. At a time when many theatres have closed their doors and others are looking to re-open, will they choose to move with the times or fall back on the safety of a tired repertoire?

With an overview of influential women in post-war theatre and 25 exclusive interviews with leading women theatre-makers, this book inspires us to create a truly equal and inclusive theatre today.

Including interviews with:

Pippa Ailion
Nina Lee Aquino
Sudha Bhuchar
Moira Buffini
Paule Constable
Denise Gough
Jill Greenhalgh
Vicky Ireland
Jude Kelly
Bryony Lavery
Rhea Lewis
Rachel Maza
Kumiko Mendl
Katie Mitchell
Marsha Norman
Lynn Nottage
Kate O’Donnell
Winsome Pinnock
Emma Rice
Pip Robinson
Daryl Roth
Jenny Sealey
Saviana Stanescu
Michelle Terry
Kully Thiarai
Kate Waters


Joan Littlewood
Jocelyn Herbert
Ellen Stewart
Gillian Lynne
Cicely Berry
Julia Miles
Thelma Holt
Chita Rivera
Judi Dench
Glenda Jackson
Barbara Ann Teer
Caryl Churchill
Yvonne Brewster
Robyn Archer
V (Eve Ensler)
Garry Hynes
Nica Burns
Gcina Mhlophe
Yvette Nolan
Meera Syal
Bunny Christie
Sonia Friedman
Audra McDonald
Rose Fenton/Lucy Neal


Naomi Paxton is a researcher and performer. She is an AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, and received the TaPRA Early Career Research prize in 2019 for her body of work on suffrage theatre, which includes two edited collections with Methuen Drama, a monograph with Manchester University Press, the exhibitions Dramatic Progress: Votes for Women and the Edwardian Stage exhibition (National Theatre, 2018-9) and What Difference Did the War Make? World War One and Votes for Women (UK Parliament, 2018), and the card game Suffra-Greats!

Dr Susan Croft is a writer, curator, arts archive specialist, dramaturg and activist. She is Director of Unfinished Histories: Recording the History of the Alternative Theatre Movement, editor of the blog, Her Inside: Women in the Lockdown, and producer of SuffrageArts.
Her publications include She Also Wrote Plays: an International Guide to Women Playwrights (2001) and the anthologies Votes for Women and Other Plays (2009), Classic Plays by Women (2012) and (with Sherry Engle) Thousands of Noras: Short Plays by Women 1875-1920.

Gabrielle Brooks is a London born Actress and Cultural Producer. She is first generation with parents of Guyanese and Jamaican heritage. Gabrielle started her professional acting career at the tender age of 8 performing in the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Whistle Down the Wind in London’s West End and has gone on to perform in various Regional and West End productions and on screen.

Gabrielle is the creator and Producer of BlackStage UK, an emotional and educational exposé on what it means to be Black in the UK arts industry. It is a free tool in anti-racist education for arts organisations and individuals to implement systemic change in their practice and daily lives.
Throughout her career, she has had first-hand experience of the damaging effects of racial bias in the arts industry and saw the vital need for change. She continues to align her work as an artist and activism to advocate for a truly equitable workplace.


Let’s talk about the fight club: women who battled their way to the top in theatre: Read The Sunday Times article featuring Paule Constable, Denise Gough and Kate Waters here.

“An inclusive and all-around eye-opening account of how theatre has changed…an enlightening path into the dazzling minds of these groundbreaking women.” – The Broadway World, read the full review here.

“As a publication, 50 Women in Theatre is comprehensive and a good thing to have, an important collection of talent around the world.” -The Reviews Hub, read more here.

Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★   – Musical Theatre Review, read the full article here.

To read Kully Thiarai’s interview featured on the Guardian here.

Fight for gender equality is harder than ever: Read The Stage article about the launch event here.

50 Women in Theatre mentioned in the The Telegraph, read here.

“Or how about celebrating achievement? Part of a series called ’50 Women in …’, 50 Women in Theatre must have been good fun and rather satisfying to research and assemble. It consists, after a detailed introduction, of 50 short celebrations of the contributions made to theatre by women since 1945. And they are wonderfully diverse both in terms of who they are and what they’ve achieved. Thus we go from choreographer Gillian Lyne to producer Thelma Holt, director Jenny Sealey and voice guru Cicely Berry. Actors include Audra McDonald, Meera Syal, Glenda Jackson and Judi Dench, We also read about producers such as Nica Burns, actor/directors like Michelle Terry and playwrights including Moira Buffini and Bryony Lavery. 

Some of these accounts are written in the third person (Caryl Churchill, Sonia Friedman) not least because some of them are dead (Joan Littlewood, Jocelyn Herbert) or, presumably, preferred not to be interviewed. Others are presented as “in their own words” and written at greater length usually in a question and answer format.

It’s an attractive hard back book on shiny paper with lots of coloured photographs so it would make a good present.”    – Sardine Magazine, no.56

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