“Tree” highlights the need for Credit Arbitration for playwrights

A thought prompted by the Mark Brown article in The Guardian.

The abridged version of the story is that Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley were removed from a theatre production after four years of work.

“Tree” now claims it was created by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Idris Elba, and has failed to acknowledge both women for their contribution.

You should also read the Medium article Tree. A Story of Gender and Power in Theatre, where they explain in their own words what happened.

What strikes me after reading this, is how weak both were made to feel, and how little power they had to have their claims recognised. Basically if you don’t have huge reserves of cash to litigate, there’s not much you can do.

Anyone who knows anything about screenwriting knows that writers are frequently replaced. A new writer is brought in to do a rewrite or polish, punch up the dialogue, fix this hole in the plot, the list goes on.

When this all goes tits-up, and there is a dispute over credit, screenwriters can turn to the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Credit Arbitration service for help.

The aim of the service is to ensure “each writer’s contribution to the shooting script is properly valued and rewarded with the correct credit”.

There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent service for playwrights. It’s probably something the Guild should get into, but for some arcane reason, can’t.

I wish nothing but good fortune to both Allen-Martin and Henley. You’re not alone, we’ve all felt that same weight, frustration, and disappointment.

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