Kwame Kwei-Armah, the actor and playwright, claims that there is a ‘glass ceiling’ for black actors in Britain.
Really? Shame he said that just as ‘Luther’ returned to our screens…
“There is a strong sense among black actors that there is a glass ceiling and that you can only get so far, which means people start looking for different marketplaces,” says Kwei-Armah, whose work Elmina’s Kitchen was performed at the Garrick Theatre in 2005.
Who elected Kwei-Armah to speak for black actors?
Still, colour-blind casting remains the accepted practice in the theatre, if perhaps less so on television. For instance, Sir Derek Jacobi, as King Lear, sired a black Cordelia in Pippa Bennett-Warner in last year’s celebrated production of the tragedy at the Donmar theatre.
The National Theatre went so far as to have a group of white colonialists played by black actors who had to “white-up” every night to appear in a production of Death and the King’s Horseman.
My good lord, could you imagine the reaction if the opposite had been suggested? There wouldn’t be a theatre left standing…
So, just why is Kwei-Armah having a bit of a strop, anyway?
Still, it is all too little, too late for Kwei-Armah, who is voting with his feet. He is moving to Baltimore to become artistic director of the Centrestage theatre company.
Ah. Far be it from me to say this is deflection behaviour to head off any awkward questions about why he’s leaving…