If you had asked me that question back in the mid 1980s the answer would have been, without hesitation or deviation the variety. Back in those days the full extensive vocabulary with regard to diversity, inclusivity and multi, cross-cultural and poly ethnic work, was still being devised and formulated. So it was variety in the true sense of the word. Political Theatre, Children’s Theatre, Theatre for pure entertainment, experimental, classical, revivalist and new. With actors being cast because they were deemed the best for the production in hand. I of course as an actor of colour benefited from this theatrical artistic world-view. I did classical, new, revivals, devised, political, children’s and avant guard work. Then the 1990 hit and it all stopped for me.
So what do I love about British Theatre in the 21st century?
As a practitioner, when I’m given the opportunity to participate (which these days is very seldom) it’s the process. The exploration. The creation of a character within a new world, a new regime or looking at an existing and creating from a different viewpoint. Being able to voice a range of language and expression from a variety of backgrounds. My one criticism is that the creative world and those that gate keep the entrances are falling way behind the actuality and the visions that are being created and the stories that are being told and the actors they use to tell these stories are not varied, not diverse and not “realistic” enough.
As an audience member what I am presented with on stages in spite of the high production values, seldom represents me. Or speaks directly to me as a British East Asian citizen. I cannot find my place in these worlds. My inclusion as a member of British society who has a shared history. I am not walked through or referred to on these artistic pages or artistic representations.
There are some things of course that I can relate to as another human being but culturally; my experience of this culture, of being British, is of course radically different to that of the white privileged class that is dominant in our society. My experience is no less valid than anyone else’s. But it is the least likely to be presented on stage. And therefore the lives of the British East Asians artistically in the 21st century are still lacking validation, recognition and visibility.
For me this day – #LoveTheatreDay is a double-edged sword. It is both love and hate