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Across The Pond

Thorny Start for Upcoming War of the Roses Production

British director Trevor Nunn (former Artistic Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and is currently director of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket) has run into a bit of controversy over casting choices for a series of four of Shakespeare’s historical plays in London.  Opening on September 16th, more than twenty actors have been chosen for roles, and yet not one is an actor of color; this has led to complaints from both Equity U.K. and the Arts Council.

Malcolm Sinclair, the president of Equity U.K., commented, “Whilst wishing every individual actor in the production well, can it be acceptable best practice in 2015 to cast a project such as this with 22 actors but not one actor of color or who apparently identifies themselves as having a disability?”

Equity U.K.’s Minority Ethnic Members Committee released a statement that read in part, “To present this benchmark of British heritage in a way that effectively locks minorities out of the cultural picture [literally] flies in the face of the huge conversation taking place in British media at present, of the very real progress made in recent years to increase diversity in our industry.”

In response to criticisms, Nunn told The Independent that he would “cast, whenever possible, according to the principle of diversity”, but in this case of The War of The Roses he had made an “artistic decision” to choose actors based on “historical verisimilitude.”

He added, “The connections between the characters, and hence the narrative of the plays, are extremely complex, and so everything possible must be done to clarify for an audience who is related by birth to whom. Hence, I decided that, in this instance, these considerations should take precedence over my usual diversity inclination.”

Julia Horan, a member of the Casting Directors Guild of Great Britain, commented: “I think that everybody in the industry supports the idea of inclusive casting and it is part of a constant conversation about who we should cast which is taking place in theatres across Britain.”  Horan continued that, “There’s a wider issue of a lack of diversity which extends beyond casting to the entire industry itself. Diversity only moves forward when the people doing the picking are diverse and if there’s no diversity in that then there will never be any true diversity in terms of who’s on stage.”

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