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London’s Print Room criticised for ‘racist’ casting of Chinese roles

The Print Room at the Coronet. Photo: Marc Brenner The Print Room at the Coronet. Photo: Marc Brenner
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UPDATE: The Print Room has since responded to the claims made in this story.

West London venue the Print Room has been heavily criticised for casting Caucasian actors in a play set in China that features Chinese characters.

The move has been labelled “racist” by critics, who have taken to social media to express their anger and are planning a protest outside the venue in response.

Written by Howard Barker and directed by Gerrard McArthur, In the Depths of Dead Love is due to open at the theatre next year. Despite being set in ancient China, it features four Caucasian actors, including Jane Bertish and James Clyde.

A protest has now been planned to coincide with the play’s opening night on January 19.

It has been organised by director Andrew Keates, who is himself directing a play, called Chinglish, that will feature East Asian performers. He said they were “woefully underrepresented in our industry”.

Writing about the protest on Facebook, he said: “We are inviting everyone who feels that this decision is offensive to meet outside the Print Room from 5pm for a peaceful protest on the opening night of the production to bring attention to the marginalisation of Asian actors in the UK.”

He added that the use of Caucasian actors was “unacceptable and racist”.

In an open letter to the artistic director of the Print Room, Anda Winters, he added that the venue should not be endorsing the “racist, outdated and unnecessary practice of ‘yellowface’ and instead find actors who are appropriate”.

His concerns have been backed on Twitter and Facebook by hundreds of other people.

Helen Crevel wrote on Facebook: “Shocked, saddened and frankly sick and tired of having to fight this fight yet again. With all the conversations around diversity going on in this country and elsewhere, how can this production be so out of touch?”

Daniel York, a British East Asian actor, said: “Am literally astounded that you appear to have indulged in some blatant yellowface casting in your upcoming Howard Barker production.”

He also highlighted the “fiasco” of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Orphan of Zhao in 2012, which featured just three actors of East Asian heritage.

The Print Room was criticised over the weekend for its silence on the matter.

It had not responded to a request for a comment as The Stage published this article.

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