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Romola Garai: Theatre’s working practices discriminate against parents

Romola Garai is backing the Parents in Performing Arts campaign. Photo: Keith Pattison

Actor Romola Garai has accused the theatre industry of discriminating against parents, claiming some performers are being made to choose between a career or a family.

Garai, who starred in Measure for Measure at the Young Vic [1] last year, called for more understanding from employees towards performers with children.

The actor, speaking in a video made for campaign group Parents in Performing Arts [2], said having children had had “an enormous impact” on her career.

“There have been numerous challenges we have had to overcome as a family. I feel, by and large, that theatre, film, TV and radio – the performing arts – is not accepting of working parents. It’s seen as completely normal to essentially employ discriminatory working practices towards parents. Men and women who are trying to raise their families are having to choose between their careers and being supportive parents,” she said.

Garai said that the industry should be approaching parenting in the same way it tackles other issues, such as diversity.

She said being a parent was seen as an “embarrassment” and something “you have to apologise for”.

In theatre, Garai said directors could be more considerate when it comes to rehearsal scheduling, claiming performers should be given 48 hours’ notice for a call.

“Everyone knows that it’s normal to get a call for the following day at 6pm or 7pm. It essentially says: if you’re a parent, your time commitments are of no interest to your employers. It’s discrimination,” she said.

PIPA is currently conducting a survey into conditions for parents in the sector [3]. A spokeswoman for the campaign said the PIPA consortium was committed to tackling some of the issues raised by Garai, and urged people to take part in the survey.