Sparks & Cry God for Harry, England and St George!, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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by Laura Kressly

Using the word ‘strong’ to describe women and girls is redundant. Putting up with all the trash that women have to deal with as a result of their gender, on top of everything else life throws at them, makes them strong by default. If they are queer, women of colour, disabled, working class, or fall in any other category that others them, this makes them even tougher because life is all the harder.

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For a Black Girl, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Ava Davies

Nicole is tired of not seeing herself onstage. Nicole is tired of people telling her that racism and sexism don’t exist. Nicole is angry and she is ready to do something about that.

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Feature | An open letter to Music Theatre Wales

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by Paulina Brahm

A letter to Music Theatre Wales:

I’d also like to engage The British Council and additionally Birmingham Repertory and
Hackney Empire in my letter, as both Birmingham Repertory and Hackney Empire are Arts Council-funded.

I’m Paulina Brahm; an Asian-American actress, singer, and voiceover artist. I trained in
voice and acting in New York City; acting under much-missed Broadway director Gene
Frankel and voice under leading spinto soprano Dolores Mari of the New York City Opera. I am a full lyric soprano with coloratura flexibility and I now live, work and sing in the UK.

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My Country; a work in progress, Theatre Royal Stratford East

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After 52% of 72% of the British voting population voted to leave the EU, Rufus Norris’s concern that London theatre was out of touch with the majority of British people drove him to launch a nationwide project of listening. He sent a team of ‘gatherers’ to all corners of these sceptered isles, and they collected 70 interviews from people up and down the country. The transcriptions combined with text by Carol Ann Duffy gave birth to My Country; a work in progress.

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Feature | Barker’s Play Doesn’t Erase Minorities – The Print Room Does

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by Daniel York

I actually sat down and read In The Depths of Dead Love last night.

If anything, I’m even more angry now. The argument put forth by the Print Room is that, although the play is set in ancient China and the characters have Chinese names, the characters are not “Chinese” and it’s a very “English story”.

Is this true? Well, there are a lot of “deep bows” and talk of emperors but reading the work leaves me wondering just exactly how ethno-specific a play would have to be before the people who programmed and presented this one would consider that, yes, we might just have to cast some actors who aren’t actually Caucasian and middle-class.

The thing that really does disgust me, though, is the Print Room’s argument that they should have the right to cast “the best actors for the roles, independent of ethnic origin”. Leaving aside that being “independent of ethnic origin” appears to be a privilege that only applies to white people, we have the Print Room citing Christopher Hurrell’s defence that, “the characteristics [Barker’s play] seeks in actors are not social, cultural or ethnic—they’re technical, aesthetic and artistic.”

Let’s just pause there. Would it have to be written in pidgin English before the demands were relegated to “social, cultural or ethnic”?

And this is what is utterly despicable about the whole argument I’ve had so many times in the past and, I hope, not too many more in the future: the sheer racial and social snobbery embodied by organisations like the Print Room and the Wrestling School when they assert that they cast “the best actors for the role”. What they’re actually saying is “you little ethnics just aren’t up to the job”.

This would be bad enough but we’re now all pretty much certain that they never met or considered any actors of any other ethnic background other than white Caucasian for this production. This play which was produced on the radio in 2013, which Christopher Hurrell maintains was given a reading at the Print Room in 2013. They’ve had FOUR YEARS to develop this. FOUR YEARS in which it looks as if they never once even considered casting actors who weren’t white. I presume, they never once considered that actors who weren’t white Caucasian were up to the “technical, aesthetic and artistic” demands of the play.

The racial and social snobbery is compounded by the Print Room alleging that the protests have come from “some members of the public” when in fact it’s mainly members of the theatre community. When they argue that the references to China are merely “oblique”. When they give trite lectures about The Great Man being a “fabulist” whose work “is poetic and often difficult to pin down in time or place”.

Yes, we do understand all those things. Because we’ve actually read a few books too. We understand the arguments perfectly because, believe it or not, we’re “artists” as well.
And, as artists, we politely but firmly reject this cultural ethnic elitist high-handedness.

Please join us in in our protest this Thursday Jan 19th. If you can’t physically make it (or even if you can) please partake in the “thunderclap” social media protest.

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Editorial | An Open Letter to the Print Room

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I never make New Year’s resolutions. They work for other people and that’s great, but they aren’t my thing. But Daisy Bowie-Sell’s tweet from a few days ago asking what theatre’s resolutions should be for 2017 resonated with me. An industry making resolutions? Now that’s something I can get behind – people working together for a common goal is what theatre is about on a microcosmic level anyway, and more unity is surely a good thing in a world becoming increasingly polarised.

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