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Theatre ‘obliged’ to tackle diversity despite cost, says Metta artistic director

Metta Theatre's Poppy Burton-Morgan. Photo: Jane Hobson
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The artistic director of Metta Theatre has claimed organisations have a moral duty to invest in diversity regardless of extra costs.

Poppy Burton-Morgan says the industry needs a “step change”, and although budgets are stretched, producers always have a choice.

Burton-Morgan, who works as a freelance opera and theatre director alongside her role at the London and Exeter-based Metta, raised the issue in a blog for UK Theatre, which discussed the ethical considerations of budgeting for producers.

She told The Stage: “It costs more to work with deaf and disabled actors. There is a scheme called Access to Work where you can apply for funding from the government, but it gets harder and harder and there is never a guarantee. If you are a producer then that is a really big consideration.

“At the casting level it takes the time to find those people. For instance, with ethnicity, if you have to work harder to reach different people, that is the cost.

“Sometimes audiences for certain works can be perceived to be narrower, and there is a feeling that there will be less box office takings. Also, if you have to provide captioning, that all costs extra.”

Burton-Morgan argued, however, that organisations needed to build these costs into their budgets from the beginning and make diversity a driving force behind their work.

She said: “If you have any level of public funding you have a responsibility to make those choices. If you are a national portfolio organisation you have an obligation to do it. But in some organisations it is done in a tokenistic way.

“It’s a step change that needs to happen in the industry. There is never an excuse, it is a choice. Everyone can do more but they have got to want to do it. You have an ethical and moral obligation to represent all those voices.”