Equity president Maureen Beattie has condemned the “rise of racist reviews” in theatre, film and TV criticism.
She has urged members of the industry to be “constantly vigilant” and to “root out and expose racism wherever [they] find it”.
Writing in the union’s magazine, she said: “It seems that some racists – perhaps encouraged by the inflammatory language used by certain political leaders in recent times and during the Brexit debates – are becoming increasingly bold in asserting their poisonous views.
“We must fight this trend with every fibre of our beings. We must be constantly vigilant and root out and expose racism wherever we find it. Our industry is famously open hearted and we must do all we can to keep it that way.”
Beattie cited examples of reviewers commenting on an actor’s race when it was not relevant to the role, or remarking that two actors of different skin colours were “evidently not related”.
She singled out a particular review of the BBC’s new series His Dark Materials as being “utterly repellant in its racism”, because the reviewer objected to a black man being the master of a University of Oxford college.
“You can argue all you like about a simple lack of imagination. It’s true that watching and listening to drama in theatre, film or television or radio, requires a leap of faith: the famous ‘suspension of disbelief’.
“But this is much more serious than a lack of imagination. In my view this is racism, pure and simple. Sometimes unconscious, sometimes not,”she said.
Last year, the Royal Shakespeare Company accused Daily Mail critic Quentin Letts of having a “blatantly racist attitude” in a review of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, in which he suggested that actor Leo Wringer had been cast in the production only because he is black.