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Is the door really open for black actors to star in Shakespeare?

BBA DatabaseFor black, Asian and minority ethnic performers, landing a leading role in a classical production is still often considered newsworthy. As Black History Month begins, Dr Jami Rogers, Research Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, investigates how diverse our two leading Shakespeare venues really are...

"When the Royal Shakespeare Company announced late last year it had cast Paapa Essiedu to play Hamlet for its 2016 production, attention was immediately paid; that he became the first black actor to play Hamlet in the company’s history has been much discussed.

"The larger picture, however, is that 2016 has been a comparatively exceptional year for black actors playing Shakespeare’s tragic heroes in high-profile venues. As well as Hamlet, this year has seen black actors playing King Lear (Don Warrington, Talawa Theatre Company/Manchester Royal Exchange) and Macbeth (Ray Fearon, Shakespeare’s Globe). What the presence of black male leads highlights is the growing participation in classical theatre for ethnic minority artists (the lack of similar opportunities for women and other minority groups at this level is also glaringly obvious).

"The British Black and Asian Shakespeare Performance Database shows that, although progress in casting ethnic minority performers has not always been steady, it is a trend that has been visible since the early 1980s."

Read more in her article on The Stage website.


Alex Buxton: Media Relations Manager, University of Warwick

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