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Mark Gatiss: ‘Misogyny around gender-crossed Shakespeare proves theatre has a long way to go’

Mark Gatiss (centre) at the London launch of the Casting Directors’ Guild’s new awards Mark Gatiss (centre) at the London launch of the Casting Directors’ Guild’s new awards
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Actor Mark Gatiss has said the industry still has a “huge way to go” in terms of gender equality and diversity.

Gatiss was speaking at the London launch of the Casting Directors’ Guild’s new awards, where Cloud Atlas actor David Gyasi and The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby also spoke about representation in the industry.

Gatiss said: “I’m old enough to remember there was a point at which it was an extraordinary novelty to have a non-white person in any play or TV show.

“And yet the massive pouring of misogyny around Phyllida [Lloyd’s all-female] Shakespeare trilogy [at the Donmar Warehouse] tells you there is a huge way to go. We take three steps forwards but we take one back.”

He added: “There will not really be change until we go right to the top, because as long as this country and this industry is ruled by middle-class white men, then it will only ever be tokenistic. It has to change across the board.”

Kirby, who is to appear in Julie at the National Theatre in June, argued that “now more than ever” is the time to “stand up and face the reality and do things to change it”.

“I read something [actor] Rosamund Pike said actually, that it’s men that have to be willing to take the supporting parts to lead females. I loved that interview because it was so right – we always play Lady Macbeth because they are Macbeth,” she said.

Kirby added: “Definitely [we still have a lot further to go], this is the beginning.”

Gyasi said representation of people of black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in theatre, film and television needed to extend beyond the actors to casting directors and artistic directors.

“It’s incredible to see someone I looked up to as an actor as the artistic director of the Young Vic, and I think that’s the first artistic director’s phone number that I have, and that’s Kwame Kwei-Armah, and I’m suddenly in a position that lots of my white peers have been in for a long time,” Gyasi told The Stage.

He added: “Now when I look at the industry, I feel the next generation aren’t going to be asking the questions I was asking, and that’s largely because of the people in this room challenging the industry, challenging the directors and producers to say, ‘These people can tell stories whatever section of the community we come from.’”

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