Ethnic Theatre

Convener(s):    Amy Ip

Participants: Anouk Mishti, Bindy Asolanki, Amanda, Angela Clerkin

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

 The session was called by Amy who is a Chinese actress and has found the terminology and execution of ethnic or culturally specific theatre to be confusing. It was poised that if we are aiming for a culturally diverse theatre, why are ethnic specific theatres still around? It was acknowledged that they may be a “necessary evil” as some people feel that they need to explore this aspect of their lives. However, is this type of theatre and mentality only serving to further “ghetto-ise” people’s thinking into believing that they are so different from the majority?

Anouk observed that due to the Art’s Council remit about serving different ethnic groups, it can sometimes be easy just to “tick boxes” regarding the ethnic criteria in order to secure funding to get a project off the ground. However, this was seen as potentially harmful as then you are just perhaps perpetuating cultural stereotypes according to what the ACE deigns to be a positive cultural representation.

Amy noted that maybe her view on ethnic theatre may well be prejudiced in itself as she had not really experienced marginalised behaviour to herself in cross-cultural casting. She has not found it necessary to solely aim for theatre that discusses her own ethnicity as has never found it a barrier in casting, particularly in theatre. Other people she knows has found this to be the case and have therefore opted to go for more ethnic specific work.

Amanda also noted that some ethnic theatre groups can over-emphasise issues as being culturally specific when in fact they are universal themes. A case in point was a Talawa production which focused on domestic violence which though is an issue suffered by many people across the world, she found that the play really seemed to imply that it was predominantly a South Asian female problem. 

It was discussed that maybe though the point of ethnic theatre groups is to increase diversity in the theatre sector and does give certain people a voice, it can also make the theatre world more divisive rather than diverse.