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February recap: the month’s biggest news stories

A production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, starring Imelda Staunton, has banned all food
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From casting controversies to a snack crackdown, we look back at February’s biggest stories.

The row about diversity in the cast of musical Half A Sixpence continues as Julian Fellowes backtracks on earlier comments and agrees that ‘it was odd’ that the casting was all-white, while the show’s casting director claims that they did audition BAME actors.

In the same week, a leading diversity campaigner, Fraser Ayres, criticises the theatre sector for being ‘actively racist’ and black-led theatre company Talawa unveils plans to improve the diversity of British theatre through a range of schemes.

The cast of The Kite Runner in the West End uses a curtain call to challenge Donald Trump’s ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

After 187 years in London, Samuel French is to close its bookshop, blaming an “unsustainable rental increase”.

Theatre company Out of Joint commits to a 50:50 gender split in the writers it commissions and the actors who perform in their productions.

Following Bristol City Council’s £380,000 cut to its arts budget, Bath and North East Somerset Council announces that it will phase its arts grants out completely. The news is met with fierce criticism from actors including Timothy West and Tony Robinson.

Irish theatres, on the other hand, receive capital funding of €9 million.

West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds announces that it will develop a festival that explores living with dementia.

Actor and writer Amelia Bullmore demands more childcare support for performers, following calls by Harry Potter actor Noma Dumezweni and leading director Rachel Kavanaugh for a cooperative creche to be launched.

London mayor Sadiq Khan welcomes government proposal to safeguard live music venues and but criticises the government’s cuts on creativity in schools, branding them a “false economy”. Khan’s newly appointed night tsar, Amy Lamé, encourages theatres across London to stay open later.

A new recycling campaign launches in London, addressing the lack of provision for recycling in West End theatres.

Emma Rice speaks for the first time since her forced departure from Shakespeare’s Globe, saying that she is staying at the theatre for another year in order to see through the next season of work.

Audience members are banned from eating during performances of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in London’s West End, just weeks after the show’s star Imelda Staunton gave an interview in which she supported outlawing food in theatres.

Theatre Royal Stratford East artistic director Kerry Michael is to leave the venue at the end of 2017 after 12 years in the post.

In production news, Gary Barlow finally announces details of jukebox musical The Band, which will feature the songs of Take That and will star boyband Five to Five, the winners of the BBC’s Let It Shine.

Jez Butterworth’s new play The Ferryman announces a West End transfer even before its run at London’s Royal Court has begun.

Mel Brooks announces a run of comedy musical Young Frankenstein in the West End, based on his Oscar-nominated film.

The RSC announces that Robert Harris’ trilogy of Roman novels will be adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton as part of its winter season.

This year’s Brighton Festival line-up is revealed, with Kate Tempest as guest director.

In casting, Miranda Hart will make her West End debut as Miss Hannigan in Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre, Felicity Kendal and Maureen Lipman will star in Trevor Nunn’s production of Lettice and Lovage, Game of Thrones star Hannah Murray will lead the cast of an all-female Posh, and Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell will perform in a new production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Casting directors Maggie Lunn and Doreen Jones die on the same day.

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