Bleedin’ Amazin’ Innit?

The increasing use of black and Asian actors has led some in British theatre to congratulate themselves on the growing diversity of the British stage.

But experts have warned that casting ethnic minority actors without paying attention to the way they are lit, or what colour costumes they wear, puts them at a disadvantage to white performers.

An academic at London’s Globe Theatre says that black and Asian actors can be obscured by the dark costumes and furnishings and gloomy lighting traditionally associated with the staging of works by Shakespeare and other period dramatists.

Producers are now being urged to pay more attention to the set design, lighting and costume used in plays featuring ethnic minority actors, in order for the audience to get the most out of their performances.

Different skin tones require different lighting?


It’s as if lighting designers don’t actually design lighting.

27 thoughts on “Bleedin’ Amazin’ Innit?”

  1. “…in order for the audience to get the most out of their performances.”

    What, if it’s too gloomy on stage, we won’t see them until they smile?

  2. are we expecting a build up to the argument that you need to be a certain skin tone to light a certain skin tone?

  3. Julia – you jest, but we had a doctor come to our door in the early 80’s (it was so long ago doctors still made house calls).

    It was the dead of winter so cat-in-a-coal-cellar conditions outside. My mother answered the door and peered out, seeing nothing and thinking some kids had rang the doorbell for a prank.

    Got the fright of her life when the African doctor smiled at her.

  4. The point of the Globe was to perform Shakespeare as Shakespeare had performed it. The one place where it was done like that – plenty of places where it can be performed in more modern ways. But now we can’t because we’ve got to have bright artificial lighting so that we can have black actors.

    They seem to have stopped the male-only casts as well.

  5. What’s wrong with using a good light base for stage makeup? They’d still be BAME actors under the whiteface, just easier to see.

  6. Confused Old Misfit

    Where would we be without experts eh? This crap was common knowledge among theatrical lighting people 50 years ago!

  7. There are barber shops setting up now where people live above the shop and customers pay in cash.

    Admit their Privilege?

  8. OT, but this remark in yesterday’s Sunday Times by Rod Liddle is rather delightful:

    “…there are few birds I like more than the curlew. Their alarm call is perhaps the most magnificent of all British birds — the eerie noise, when they are disturbed, is like an ululating Palestinian mother grieving the death of her son who has blown himself up at an Israeli checkpoint.”

  9. Rod Liddle is increasingly coming out with such gems. I saw his sell-out “interview with Fraser Nelson” at the Palladium earlier this summer – great stuff!

  10. we continually hear from the perpetually racist and offended about “cultural appropriation” whenever white people do something that has it’s roots in foreign culture. On this subject we don’t hear a peep.

  11. The demented insistence on ‘colour-blind’ and ‘gender-blind’ casting is starting to ruin theatre, especially for those unfamiliar with a play.

    As I am in the UK on an unusually extended trip, I have noticed a severe gulf between the reality portrayed in adverts, v the nation.

    Advertisers seem to believe that London = Britain.

    They also seem to believe that 90% of white women are in relationships with black men despite there not being anywhere near enough black men for this. And despite there actually being far more white guys dating black girls than vice versa, you never seem to see a white chap with a black partner.

    And, as far as I can tell, there are no gays in adverts.

  12. @MC
    Advertisers are mostly in London. People in London believe London = Britain (and those of us who don’t live in London want to keep it that way to stop the louts coming out here and ruining it).

  13. PF

    Rod Liddle is increasingly coming out with such gems.

    He is. I am reminded of the late Auberon Waugh’s review of a wine, comparing it to “a bunch of dead chrysanthemums on the grave of a still-born West Indian baby”.

  14. MC,

    Theatre is basically a dead art form and much like another dead form, gallery art, it isn’t about people being entertained as ticking the right politics.

    Noone who wants a good bit of drama spends £60 on theatre tickets to watch a flat stage. You can spend half that and see Mission Impossible:Fallout in IMAX. Or buy the DVD of The Philadelphia Story for £5.

  15. Bloke in North Dorset


    “Blacks and Asians can’t get enough of Shakespeare, so this is bound to be a rip-roaring success!”

    Its been a while since I went to the Globe and to the theatre in Stratford, but there was plenty of Japanese and Chinese in the audience.

    Oh, you mean *that* sort of Asian.

  16. Mr Lud

    Definitely unfavourable. I seem to recall that he also likened the said wine to “blue ink” and “curry powder”. The comparison to dead chrysanthemums on the grave of a stillborn West Indian child got him into a degree of trouble with the Press Complaints Commission, but he won through.

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