Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber has said British theatre is “hideously white” and will not survive unless more resources are funneled to black and Asian drama students and performers.
The musical theatre composer, who has won three Grammys and created noted shows including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, was writing in a new “diversity report” looking at reducing the proportion of white people in the performing arts.
According to The Stage, he commented: “I passionately believe that the stage needs to reflect the diversity of the UK population or it risks becoming sidelined.”
The report – The Pipeline of BAME [black and minority ethnic] Talent” – was written by Centre Stage and commissioned by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.
Centre Stage claimed that non-white students at drama school feel isolated among predominantly white students.
Their report calls for drama schools to make 50 per cent of places accessible to “low-income students”, for extra online resources for non-white students, and for funding bodies to include diversity as a “key criterion” when awarding money.
There are also calls for producers, directors, and others to “take a lead in encouraging a more culturally diverse workforce”, with “colour blind” casting and more plays by non-white writers.
The report warns: “If the situation continues, there is real danger that, not only will as a profession, they will stay away as punters. And without them in the audience, theatres will become unsustainable, as they are forced to compete for a dwindling ageing, white, middle-class audience.”
The report’s authors, Danuta Kean and Mel Larsen, claimed that “white middle classes still dominate audiences” and that “even in London, where the BAME population is now 44 per cent, audiences outside specialist theatres and theatre groups remain overwhelmingly white”.
Lord Lloyd Webber is now urging “arts sector bodies, drama schools, theatre producers, actors, creative teams and philanthropists to take responsibility and specific action”.