Olivier award-winning actor Denise Gough has criticised the theatre industry for its consistent “undermining and exclusion” of black talent.
The actor was writing on website, I Care, an initiative to raise conversations about racial equality.
In her submission, she said she had consistently seen the “undermining and exclusion of black people in productions and at award ceremonies over many years”.
“The excuses given (if any) to support these decisions when challenged have been desperately hard to take. Hearing the words ‘we’re here to celebrate the diversity of London theatre’ at an awards show while not seeing a single black woman’s very-deserving performance recognised in the category of best actress (or I think in any category) gave me some small experience of the gaslighting laid upon black actors and actresses (and indeed all actors and actresses of colour) constantly,” she said.
She added: “The host used the word diversity so loudly and so often that I had to ask my sister that night if I was wrong in my calculations that the ceremony and indeed the industry was biased towards white people.”
She went on to say that when 26 actresses who had played a famous part in a musical over the course of 26 years walked out to sing at the end of the show, only one was a black woman.
“The industry I love had then and still has now, a long way to go,” she said.
Gough won an Olivier for best actress in 2016, and used her platform at the time to voice her concern at the lack of diversity in the category’s shortlist.
Gough conceded she had seen “some examples of effort to make changes since then” and said she was grateful.
“But it seems to me that there is also an expectation that people of colour should share that gratitude and to me that is a problem. Being represented and claiming their rightful places in an industry and a society that profits massively from their talent and their contributions across the board should not be rewarded with gratitude but with a resounding: ‘It’s about time,’” she said.