Mark Strong: ‘Support working-class actors or lose interesting characters’

Phoebe Fox, Mark Strong and Nicola Walker in A View from the Bridge Photo: Jan Versweyveld
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Performer Mark Strong has warned that interesting characters will disappear from theatre if working-class actors and writers are not supported.

His remarks come after Julie Walters claimed earlier this week that people of a similar upbringing to her nowadays do not have the opportunity to train, and confessed: “I don’t know how you get into [acting] now”.

Shadow arts minister Chris Bryant was also recently embroiled in a row with popstar James Blunt, after the politician argued the arts world should provide more opportunities for people from poorer families to avoid a culture “dominated” by entertainers like Blunt.

Speaking at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, where he picked up the best actor prize for his role in A View from the Bridge, Strong said Walters’ comments in The Guardian highlighted “the way of the world”.

“I think every creative endeavour at the moment – whether it be art, fashion, music, as well as acting – seems to have the same issue,” he explained. “Without something behind, supporting you, it’s difficult.”

Strong continued: “It’s very expensive to have theatrical training, it’s very expensive to go to university. People who have that support are more likely to be able to pass through, it’s just fact. We all know that.

“The important thing is: what do we do about that? Because otherwise we lose all these interesting characters like Richard Burton and Richard Harris, and playwrights like John Osborne who were writing working-class stories. What happens to that? Does that just go? Or do we go back to the 30s when you had incredibly posh people trying to do cockney accents?”

“It is a problem, but the important thing is that we should not just complain about it, but do something about it,” he concluded.

Last year statistics revealed that around 80% of state-educated pupils regularly make up the intake at many of the UK’s leading drama schools.

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