Director Michael Boyd has been accused of “erasing” British-based East Asian actors for the second time this year, after it emerged performers from the US have been flown in for his latest production in Bath.
His latest play, Wild Goose Dreams, is set in South Korea and written by Hansol Jung. It runs at Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio until December 21.
However, the casting has been criticised by campaign group British East Asians in Theatre and Screen, which argues that two of the actors in the production are based in the US. The remaining six East Asian cast members are understood to live in the UK.
The organisation also claims that by using performers from the US, Theatre Royal Bath has bypassed an Equity exchange agreement with its counterpart union in the US.
“It is Boyd’s second East Asian themed play in a matter of months – more than any British East Asian director has ever managed in the entirety of their careers in major theatre spaces, making Michael Boyd de facto British East Asian theatre gatekeeper,” the statement from BEATS said.
BEATS added: “Unlike Hampstead, Theatre Royal Bath is not publicly subsidised. It’s their choice what they do with their funding by private sponsors.
“Nevertheless the erasure of talented and experienced British East Asian actors, who are arguably one of the most marginalised and discriminated against ethnic groups in the British media, cannot be justified.
“The fact we have East Asian heritage actors here in the UK who could have played these roles and who have worked successfully at theatres such as the RSC, National Theatre, Royal Court […] and others, leads one to conclude that Michael Boyd lacks respect for the wider British theatre industry.”
The statement emphasises that BEATS holds “no animosity” towards the American-based actors cast in the production and does not “apportion any blame to them”.
BEATS also criticised Theatre Royal Bath for not using the Equity exchange agreement with its counterpart union in the US.
The statement says: “In the instance of Theatre Royal Bath, BEATS understands that this process was begun but not completed. In other words, it appears Michael Boyd and Theatre Royal Bath have bypassed the exchange agreement and withheld opportunities from UK based actors of East Asian heritage while denying exchange terms to the US performer.”
BEATS added that bypassing this agreement “demonstrates a fundamental disregard for best-practice trade union exchange terms and conditions designed to protect US workers’ rights when working in the UK”.
Additionally, BEATS has said it is aware of British-based East Asian actors “being kept on hold for lengthy periods” for both Wild Goose Dreams and The King of Hell’s Palace, which it argues may have been while international arrangements were made with actors in other countries.
A statement from Equity said the union is aware of BEATS’ concerns.
The statement added: “The union is unable to provide advice on specific immigration matters. However, it is correct that Theatre Royal Bath has not sought entry clearance for US performers in this production, under the exchange agreement category of the Home Office’s theatre code of practice, which Equity believes is the most appropriate route for performers coming from the US to the UK.”
Theatre Royal Bath declined to comment and Boyd could not be reached for comment.