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Indhu Rubasingham: ‘Theatre criticism’s dominance by white men should be challenged’

Indhu Rubasingham. Photo: Mark Douet Indhu Rubasingham. Photo: Mark Douet
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Director Indhu Rubasingham has criticised the dominance of white men working as theatre critics, claiming it is a “power base that is not being challenged”.

Rubasingham, who is artistic director of London’s Kiln Theatre, argued that the “privileged” critical power base is allowing work by women and people of colour to be “contained on smaller stages and for shorter runs”.

She was speaking at the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2019 for female playwrights, which took place at Shakespeare’s Globe in London on March 4.

She said: “Who is determining whether a commercial show will survive? Definitely in London and New York it’s dominated by white men, generally over 50. There are a few women in London, but a minority. I want to see critical responses from as wide a pool as possible. When I directed a play by a black writer with a predominantly female black cast, I sighed very deeply on press night.”

She added: “[The critical pool is] another power base that is not being challenged enough and is full of privilege.”

Her thoughts were echoed by playwright Martyna Majok.

Majok, a finalist in the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize 2019, argued that to address the wider gender disparity within theatre it was very important for publications to hire more female critics.

She told The Stage: “We all come with a bias, and a very specific life experience and certain limitations, so it would be nice if we could diversify the pool of people who are making the judgement call on what is considered valid art.”

Lyn Gardner: Size matters – don’t hide plays by women and people of colour in studio spaces

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