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Diversity in Theatre isn’t box ticking

Written by Marliese Andexer 11 / 07 / 2014

Representation of ethnic minorities and women in the arts is an ongoing topic of debate. Here we look at why diversity in theatre isn’t box ticking. Popular theatre forum “Devoted & Disgruntled” posted a blog earlier this year called “Why Are BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) Theatre Companies Generally So Useless?” Recent figures, however, would suggest to the contrary.

Bush Theatre this year reported a turnover of £2.56 million, a substantial rise from their £1.82 million turnover in 2012/2013, with a body of work created by a varied and diverse group. 50% of the main stage shows were written by someone from an ethnic minority and 50% were written by women.

Artistic director of the Bush Theatre Madani Younis says that these figures are not because the creative team are trying to tick boxes but because they are open to change and actively growing with their environment.

“You might assume that we sit down as a team and work out how many women and how many BAME individuals we want to have on our stage, but we are simply responding to our city and the broad landscape of our country.”

It’s clear to see that this tactic is worth its weight in tickets, with 51% of the Bush’s audiences last year being first time buyers, up from 38% the previous year.

actors rehearsing a play at Bush Theatre

Bush Theatre Rehearsal

Similarly, Rufus Norris, the soon-to-be Artistic Director of the National Theatre, has pledged to expand his audiences in the coming year. “In terms of gender balance and cultural diversity”, he said “it will be interesting to see where we can go”.

The National Theatre has had a recent spate of plays regarding race and diversity including David Henry Hwang’s critically acclaimed Yellow Face and a revival of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey.

The Young Vic has also been a keen advocate of audience and participant outreach with a number of shows tying into projects within the local community.

With all these major theatres working towards a more balanced and astute representation of London and the people who live within her limits, it may not be too outlandish to hope that one day ‘BAME theatre’ will simply be known as ‘theatre’.

To find out how we can help you reach a wide and diverse audience through digital, print and experiential services call Chris on 0207 729 5978 or e-mail hello@impactideas.co.uk

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