I am constantly astonished at the lack of diversity on TV and in the theatre. It’s not unusual for me to shout at the screen, or highlight in florescent pink, the mostly white writers and male writers attached to TV series. British TV at least. America, in this respect, does it better. I crave change for those who are not represented, for those who are not given a voice. Yes, things have improved, but they are still not good enough. We can scream all we like, but if those who make the decisions do not try harder, what real hope is there for diversity to flourish?

Lockdown has put creatives – actors and writers and many other artistic contributors – on an even keel because we are all waiting, we are all in limbo. There are a few writers and actors who have been working, most notably on lockdown stories in radio and TV while theatre holds its breath. When it re-emerges, I can almost guarantee that the big boys will be fine. They always have been. It’s their relatives I worry about. Some of them have already packed their bags.

With #BlackLivesMatter rightly dominating our lives over the past few weeks, I opened the Radio Times today (22-26 June edition), curious to see who would be in Alan Bennett’s updated Talking Heads series. Look at this photo. Read the credits. What do you see? Who do you see? I know what I see. I know who I see.

I am astonished, angry and bewildered that the directors and broadcasters could not have worked harder to find a more diverse cast, perhaps have thought to cast a disabled actor. Ten out of twelve of these actors are white. Of the seven directors, three women direct one episode each and one of those women is Asian. The rest are all white, four of the directors, direct more than one episode each. So much for change. So much for trying harder. So much for equality. (And no one gets a medal for noting that ten out of the twelve actors are women.) If we don’t encourage and support the underrepresented, who will? It won’t be those in charge because they haven’t done it yet.

During lockdown, I have listened to several famous actors, talking of their worry of emerging actors, those who have recently left drama school, those who are starting out, all now faced with uncertainty and lack of funds with no end in sight to when their careers might edge forwards. Perhaps one of the actors in Alan Bennett’s series could have taken a stand and suggested that a newer actor or less well-known actor be cast instead of them. The same with directors. But no, this hasn’t happened. As Alan Bennett says in the interview, ‘The cast is astonishing, and they all agreed at the first time of asking.’ The haves will always have more opportunities than the have nots. Why? Because the broadcasters and directors will not take a chance on the new. What people forget is that every famous actor and writer was unknown when they started out. We helped make them famous.

Like many, I worry about the future of theatre and TV. But my greater worry is that nothing will change for those whose voices have yet to be given a chance, for those who are still waiting to see themselves represented. It’s time for change. It’s time to be brave. If not now, then when? What are we waiting for?

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