BRITISH THEATRE has been called to “completely rebuild” to make it more accessible to people from diverse backgrounds, according to the director of a web series about the challenges facing people of colour in the industry.
Blackstage UK was established by actor Garbielle Brooks following numerous calls to address structural racism in the arts, which have worsened due the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Brooks believes that it has also provided a new opportunity to rebuild the industry.
Speaking to The Guardian, she said: “Yes, we have the devastating effects that the pandemic has had on the arts financially, but we will survive [and] what we have been given here is a gift to completely rebuild. I mean completely start anew from scratch.”
The star of the upcoming Netflix series Shadow and Bone also said that change was needed in improving diversity in audiences.
“I’ve stood on the stage and I thought to myself: ‘Wow, there is no one looking back at me that reflects me.’ Not only does it make me feel lonely, but it also makes me makes me feel like there’s no progression,” said Brooks.
In 2015, Arts Council England (ACE) published research that revealed people of colour accounted for only 5% of employees in some theatres across London.
The capital, however, has a population where more than 40% of people are from an ethnic minority background.
The ACE also reported that the biggest hindrances that black and ethnic minority arts participants faced were the lack of time, the cost of attending or participating, and concerns about feeling uncomfortable or out of place”.
In July last year, the Black Theatre Collective, which includes Paapa Essiedu, Clarke Peters and the Hamilton star Jamael Westman, called for reform of the UK industry where they provided up to five recommendations to consider moving forward.
They included aspects such as hair and makeup teams be trained in afro hair by this summer, and that the “appropriate skin tone makeup, underwear and physio strapping” be given to actors.
Although acknowledging that this would be trivial to many, for those in the black community, hair and makeup is “one of the biggest ways that micro aggressions manifest in the arts and entertainment industries” and recognising its implications can be a catalyst to huge change.