Performers Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton have praised the theatre sector for its diversity, claiming it is better than in the film industry.
Their comments come in the wake of a race row over the Academy Awards, which saw only white actors nominated for Oscars.
Speaking at an event announcing the Olivier Awards nominations in central London, Ball described the theatre industry as “very healthy”, adding: “It’s alive and it’s thriving and it needs to be invested in”.
Asked whether he thought the sector suffered a similar diversity problem to the one recently highlighted in the film industry, he said: “I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. I don’t think the theatre has ever suffered from the same problem.”
Ball, who is hosting the Olivier Awards ceremony on April 3, announced the nominations alongside Staunton, who was herself shortlisted for best actress in a musical for her performance in Gypsy.
Staunton said theatre was better at confronting issues of diversity and equality than on screen.
“I think we [the theatre] tackle it. We tackle it with writers at the [Royal] Court, at the National. I think we do look a bit more in theatre. Shows have to make money but it’s not just about making money, it’s about telling a story of today,” she said.
This year’s Olivier nominations saw Adrian Lester become the first black performer to be nominated for best actor since James Earl Jones in 2010. Meanwhile, best actress has been contended by only white women since Lorraine Burroughs received a nomination, also in 2010.