Opening the Door

It’s been a long time and a long term, and I just got utterly snowed under. So two, maybe even three, quick posts from me today in between drafting my book. I did make it to the Opening the Door event held at the Young Vic on Feb 11th. The theatre industry and the East Asian community came out in force to discuss racial ceilings and what they felt could be done to address the marginalisation of East Asians in British theatre. I was really impressed at the turn out and the fact that this was obviously taken seriously as an issue. As someone (who will remain anonymous) said to me:  ‘we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think there was an issue.’ The RSC turned up in force, 5 people from one organisation (2 casting directors, one producer, their press officer and Erica Whyman as the recently appointed Deputy AD). This suggests a real willingness to engage, though of course explanations about The Orphan of Zhao remained rather fuzzy when pushed on it. You can read Anna Chen’s encounter (aka ‘crisp gate’) here. On one level, it felt like a really historic moment, in that people were there, and people were willing to listen. But on another, I felt like a lot of us have had some of these conversations many many times before. There was no doubt too that when yours truly decided to get a bit pushy and questioned people further, that practitioners from within what we may call ‘the mainstream’ became somewhat defensive and even evasive. You can read my report, as well as all the others at the Devoted and Disgruntled website here. Since then, spotlight has also phased out their ‘Oriental’ category. I hope it’s replaced with something more appropriate.

The day ended on a note of optimism, and East Asians felt very empowered by the whole experience, as evidenced in the summing up. There are grounds for hope too with the production of #aiww at Hampstead and Chimerica at the Almeida. I’m off to see the former on April 24th, but I wonder how much boxing is still going on. I am always a skeptic. As David Yip highlighted during the summation, we have been here before, and so it remains to be seen how much of a PR exercise this was, and how much genuine engagement and change will result.