Previewing on 12th March at the RSC, Paapa Essiedu is the first black actor to play Hamlet for the RSC and only the seventh BAME performer to have played Hamlet in the UK since 1930.
In addition, neither the Globe nor the National Theatre have had a black or Asian actor performing Hamlet on its main stages.
Dr Jami Rogers, Research assistant on the BBA Shakespeare project and Honourary fellow of the University of Warwick's English department comments,
"Few minority ethnic performers have been given the chance to play Shakespeare's leading tragic figures. With its production of Hamlet opening in March, Paapa Essiedu in the title role at the Royal Shakespeare Company becomes only the seventh BAME performer to have played Hamlet in the UK since 1930.
In the year that celebrates Shakespeare's death, there are still leading roles that have never been played by a black or Asian performer: Coriolanus, Richard II and Titus Andronicus. The leading roles that directors cast with minority talent are predominantly the comedies as well as "Othello" and "Romeo and Juliet".
Why are BAME performers overlooked when casting Shakespeare's tragedies and histories?
2016 is shaping up to be a record year with Paapa Esseidu as Hamlet, Ray Fearon as Macbeth at the Globe and Don Warrington in a Manchester Royal Exchange/Talawa Theatre co-production. Why has it taken so long?"
Dr Jami Rogers is available for interview or further comment.
The University of Warwick's English department has been running a research project on BAME casting in classical theatre for the last 3 years.
The BBA Shakespeare database can be found here.
The research findings have been featured on the Front page of the Stage, in Broadway World, The Voice, The Guardian and the Independent. Dr Jami Rogers from the research team was even on Sky news discussing her findings in relation to the recent Oscars boycott.
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