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Musical stars including Matt Henry call for more diversity in West End shows

Tyrone Huntley and Matt Henry. Photo: Dan Wooler Tyrone Huntley and Matt Henry. Photo: Dan Wooler
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Musical theatre stars including Matt Henry and Tyrone Huntley have called for more diversity within castings in the West End.

Henry, who won an Olivier award for his role in Kinky Boots, argued that performers from Asian backgrounds are particularly under-represented because there are not enough shows telling Asian stories.

He told The Stage: “I’d love to see more diversity within castings, not just within the black community, but I have Asian friends who find it hard to get work within the West End because there aren’t the shows there, so if we could have more support for Asian writers so they can tell their story, that would be great.”

Henry also argued that the industry “shouldn’t be so colour specific” in its casting.

“We need to be more open to the fact that black people can play roles that are made for white guys, anyone can play them, it shouldn’t be so colour specific; that’s what’s been jarring,” he said.

He added: ”The industry needs to be more open and accepting of the fact you can have different relationships, sexualities, all these things, bringing in transgender as well; theatre should be accessible for everyone.”

Huntley, whose credits include Jesus Christ Superstar, agreed that the West End “is still under-represented in terms of Asian people, Middle Eastern people and people from other ethnic backgrounds.”

He added: “It’s so important to spread the word and say that whoever you are, whatever background you come from, [a career in theatre] is an option.”

Henry and Huntley spoke to The Stage earlier this month at the launch of an alliance between leading drama schools including Arts Educational Schools and Urdang Academy, which has been set up to raise the profile of the genre and increase accessibility to drama schools.

Huntley argued that one solution to improving diversity within the industry would be to make drama schools more accessible to people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

“There are people who are so talented and getting forgotten about just because they don’t come from a certain social class or can’t afford to go to drama school, so its really important we take steps to make drama school accessible for everyone,” Huntley said.