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Yellow sidelined for Brown and Black?

“Are artists/practitioners with East Asian roots sidelined in favour of South Asian and Black British work?”

lc, as an actress writes in the comments:

“Definitely! As a performer, so many times I’ve wondered how a friend has got that dream job/audition while I didn’t even get a look in… only to realize later that the company had specifically been looking for a black performer, although the colour of the character was not at all relevant to the piece…

Quite simply, I get the impression that black is cool, brown is quite cool, yellow is not.

But this applies not just to theatre but to a wide range of areas including music, politics, media… East Asian societal figureheads do seem in short supply in comparison with black and other Asian counterparts. I do still think that we are very passive in Britain, despite being (I believe) the third largest ethnic group.

I’m ambivalent about these labels “black/brown/yellow theatre”. I’m all for culturally diverse work, but I do long for the day when I can work with a company composed of individuals from a wide range of racial and cultural backgrounds, when we won’t be known or celebrated because we are all black, yellow, or just “different” but because we are simply producing high quality work that unites people regardless of race, class or nationality.

Idealistic? Of course! And there are flaws in the proposal but I find myself increasingly drawn to notions that unite and not divide us. If theatre is about humanity, then it should be our (shared) humanity that drives it, not our appearance.

And returning to this idea of being “sidelined” – part of me wonders if we are being sidelined, or whether we’re simply not fighting hard enough”

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  • About me

    I'm a playwright and investment analyst. I have a broad range of interests: food, gardening, innovation & intellectual property, sustainability, architecture & design, writing and the arts. I sit on the board of Talawa Theatre Company and advise a CIS investment trust on socially responsible investments.

  • Recent Work

    Recent plays include, for theatre: Nakamitsu, Yellow Gentlemen, Lost in Peru, Lemon Love. For radio: Places in Between (R4), Patent Breaking Life Saving (WS).

  • Nakamitsu

  • Yellow Gentlemen