Rufus Norris urges large theatres to improve black representation more quickly

Rufus Norris. Photo: Paul Plews
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National Theatre director Rufus Norris has claimed a move towards better black representation in larger theatre institutions has to “move a bit quicker”.

He was speaking at the 2017 Alfred Fagon Award, which celebrates playwrights who are resident in the UK and of Caribbean or African descent, at the National Theatre in London.

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Introducing the award, Norris said that plays such as Inua Ellams’ Barber Shop Chronicles, currently showing in the National’s Dorfman Theatre, are “changing the character” of large theatre organisations.

He said: “But we’re all aware that often change can move at a glacial pace. It’s thanks to Alfred Fagon the man, and [the Alfred Fagon Award] organisation, that institutions like the National Theatre, oil tankers that they are, have to buck their ideas up and move a bit quicker.”

He added: “With Alfred Fagon behind us we know we have to ask the walk and not just tick the box, and engage in a meaningful way with talent with lasting consequences that really does represent this colourful city and country that we live in.”

Norris was joined by screenwriter and director Amma Asante, who presented the best new play award. Agreeing with Norris, she told The Stage: “For those of us that have been around as long as I have, we’ve got some idea of just how slow that pace [of change] is.

“In recent years, to some extent, there has been some slightly deeper than surface changes, but it still needs to go a lot deeper.”

The screenwriter and director added that in order to see change, the industry needed to focus on the retention of artists rather than just entry-level opportunities.