It is right that we celebrate a new generation of talented female playwrights, but the idea that this is a new phenomenon, or particularly zeitgeisty, is a media construct. It doesn't reflect the truth, and it does the writers it purports to celebrate a disservice.
It's great that Lucy Prebble is writing about serious issues – Enron, in the case of her new play – but let's not forget that Caryl Churchill was writing powerfully about the financial world back in 1987 with Serious Money. Timberlake Wertenbaker charted the venality and vigour of the art world with Three Birds Alighting On a Field in 1992, while the remarkable Andrea Dunbar matched Polly Stenham in the precocity stakes by having a play, The Arbor, on the Royal Court's main stage in 1977 at the age of merely 15.
While the newest generation of female playwrights is not following a well-beaten path, at least it's not a journey without maps.
Let's face facts: journalism has not helped sustain the careers of young female writers. A few years ago, Rebecca Pritchard and Winsome Pinnock shot across the theatrical galaxy like flaming comets. Pinnock was hailed as the first important young black female playwright, while Pritchard began her career with Essex Girls at the Royal Court's Young Writer's festival and was later talked about in the same breath as Mark Ravenhill and Philip Ridley. They are now less visible.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Next Big Thing?
Max Stafford Clark, founder of Out of Joint, has a column in the Guardian about the tendency for the media to sex up the impact of young female playwrights who get a hit or two right out of the gate: