The background to Platform was a nationwide research study into opportunities for girls in youth drama which Tonic Theatre conducted in 2012 in partnership with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain, Company of Angels, and Zendeh. It came in response to schools and youth theatres telling us they struggled to find scripts that gave girls enough to do on stage. The research findings are published in a report Swimming in the Shallow End.
The research found that while the majority of young people taking part in youth drama are female, in the scripts being used, the majority of roles are male. Not only did this lead to a mismatch between who wants to take part and the opportunities available to them, Tonic found there were real concerns expressed by teachers, youth theatre directors, as well as young people themselves about the quality of much writing for girls. Too often, they said, female characters were pushed to the margins of the action, were less likely to have roles that were challenging, complex, funny, or aspirational. Rarely, they told us, did the depictions of females match the intelligent, questioning, powerful, dynamic young women they knew the members of their drama groups to be.
Tonic’s response is Platform; big cast, mainly or all-female scripts by top writers enthused about the brief of writing a play which gives girls just as much to get their teeth into as the boys. For Tonic, beyond the immediate benefits to young people, this work has a longer strategic goal – created to drive for greater gender equality in UK theatre, Tonic knows that change will come about quicker if we can increase the expectations that tomorrow’s generation of theatre professionals have of the role that women can play on stage.