It was a late trip out and I managed to pick up a shabby daily free newspaper. Ubiquitous on London transport, they’re basically the commercial daily version of the Friday-ad, in that it is strewn with adverts trying to get you to buy from them. It’s a plus when travelling back from a theatre gig, when your phone battery is practically on its death bed, and you’ve missed Jon Snow or Krishnan Guru Murphy and that’s what article jumped out at me (not Wayne Rooney and his wonky St. George’s flag tattoo as he tries to behave like Johnny Rotten, although I did like the £1.99 McDonald’s coupons.)
Anyway, the London Lite reported that a claim has been made by a guy called Dr Samir Shah who is a non-executive director for the BBC. He’s principally stated that black and Asian people being ‘token’ represented on the box is a not a real representation.
The main point of the article was that he ‘blamed the problem on a “metropolitan, largely liberal, white, middle-class elite” for making sure ethnic minority people were on screen regardless of editorial content.’
Now, why does this sound all too familiar? I don’t think theatre can be held up as much as TV, but I do think there’s a real danger for it. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be producing plays like Behzti, but I do feel there is a real possibility and potential chance of patronisation to be found upon the boards.
Nevertheless, I think that theatre is more culturally assure in its representation, as “editorial content”, if you can call it that, doesn’t usually take precedence when creating and so there isn’t the element of “token”. Well crafted theatre with purpose finds no compromise for this to happen.
But Shah’s other comment, and main counter movement for his stance ‘Calling for more black and Asian people to be BBC executives, he said the real positions were still filled by a “narrow culture circle”.’
Here, I couldn’t agree more. I accept that I don’t work in an executive environment, however as an outsider, I think it would be fair to find a truth behind Shah’s words.
I read the article and reflect with an awareness and analysis of the theatre of our time to not fall into this trap but to stay equal, non-patronising and true to what we want to communicate upon the stage.
There, that ain’t half bad on a midnight train to London. Who needs Jon Snow anyway, which, by the way, the reason why he isn’t reading today’s news is because he’s giving a speech at the place I’ve just been working.