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15.2.16

Is representation our only battle?

British theatre is both art and part of a wider industry connected to film, television and music, where we're seeing an unprecedented amount of attention this award season for across the board lack of cultural diversity. Black talent is either being ignored or used stereotypically.

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Black artists not only have to fight for representation, we have a bigger battle to stand out and to go against the grain.
Theatre desperately needs writers, artists and producers who are prepared to tell new stories and ask more inconvenient questions.

Nitro, (formerly Black Theatre Co-op) was established in 1979, and became one of the casualties of the Government’s
“austerity” cuts to the arts that saw a disproportionately large decrease in funded black-led companies in 2011.

The company is rising from the ashes and re-launched in Spring 2015 as nitroBEAT, with a new base at Soho Theatre and a radical new vision for contemporary music-theatre. We will premiere our new co-production, the first in seven years, with new company Mas Productions in April. The nitroBEAT and Soho Theatre partnership is built upon shared values that underscore the essential requirement for innovation and new ways to tell unheard stories.

Of the too few supported Black theatre productions there is still a focus on ‘estate gang stories’ ‘tales of subjugation’,
‘soap opera narratives’ and a re-hashing of classic plays with a black cast. Responsibility lies with both mainstream and alternative theatres and artists to take risks.

Audiences and demographics are changing, London has a 40% non-white population who want more than what is on offer and new talent has to be nurtured. Some of the most exciting work is happening outside of theatre, in DIY spaces, in exciting new web series and through fearless writing in blogs and zines. The talent is out there.

Theatre now needs to embrace new ideas and stop telling Black artists what stories to tell. It’s time to excite through the unexpected and underexplored.

Diane Morgan, nitroBEAT.

For further details of our upcoming show click here