Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Day three

I noticed a newspaper article this morning on the tube into work which spoke about the fact that this year's lists for Oscar nominations in all acting categories are completely "lily white." Out of the twenty actors nominated there is not a single person of colour. And this is the second time this has happened in as many years. Not good.

It's so difficult to know what can and should be done to improve this particular situation.

My major worry is that I don't know how the situation can be made any better without entering a no-win cul-de-sac. Obviously, the reason why women never feel hard done by (when it comes to acting at least) is because men and women are on separate lists. Whatever else happens, by the end of the evening, two actors and two actresses will have won a major gong. But plainly it's both patronising and pointless to award a "best BAME actor" Oscar. Likewise, if an official (or unofficial) quota system is introduced which suggests at least one person of colour needs to be nominated in each category, we potentially end up with cries of political correctness, and people suggesting that actors aren't there through merit. A very similar thing happened with Blair Babes after the women-only shortlists in the 1997 general election.

Personally speaking, I would far rather win an Oscar for being the best composer rather than for being the best gay composer, although one could argue there's no such thing as a straight one!!

So how do we get actors of colour winning more major awards? Do we encourage Oscar organisers to bring a quota of respected BAME film people into the judging panel to ensure that stand-out performances by black actors are rewarded? Does the black community need to educate academy voters, helping them to understand that great performances from black actors don't just happen when the actors are working on issue-based films? Your thoughts please...

The area we're rehearsing in at the moment is an interesting one which feels genuinely very mixed. On one side of the street, huge stucco-fronted Edwardian villas stretch off into the distance looking fabulously grand, whilst on the river side, block after block of decaying council estates burst into the sky. This all means that the little shopping arcade where we buy lunch is full of extremes. I have seldom heard so many obscenely posh people, nor walked past so many rough diamonds. Someone randomly called me a c**t yesterday!

Still, the area's got a bit of a buzz about it which I like. There's a man who sells fruit and veg from an old-fashioned barrow. He had a sack of new potatoes this morning which looked delicious covered in soil. New potatoes in January would have seemed so peculiar thirty years ago. I remember when the Jersies came into season, and we'd buy them from the green grocer in Potton, pick mint from the garden, and actually wish on the first one we ate. It was that much of an occasion.

We've been rehearsing all day and, for the first time this evening, the cast put some of the first number on its feet. I've been under headphones all day, orchestrating songs from the show.

There's another group of actors in the building. They're rehearsing a straight play and seem rather serious and "method." They talk a LOT about themselves and the work they've done. There's a huge difference between musical theatre actors and straight actors in the way they approach their craft. Go back stage into a straight actor's dressing room mid show and you'll find a lot of people sitting in silence with their eyes closed or jogging up and down on the spot whilst rubbing their eyes to create some sort of "authenticity" as they walk onto the stage. A musical theatre actor's dressing room is full of people shouting, laughing, playing practical jokes and arguing. Straight actors are more likely to be straight. Musical theatre ones are more likely to be gay (or at least act that way!) I think I know which dressing room I'd rather be in!

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