Andrew Lloyd Webber has called for greater diversity on the British stage, following the publication of a new report commissioned by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation that explored the under-representation of black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) people in live theatre in Britain.
In the report, titled Centre Stage: The Pipeline of BAME Talent, co-authored by Danuta Kean, an arts, media, and publishing analyst, and Mel Larsen, an arts consultant, it is stated that "white middle classes still dominate audiences" and that "even in London, where the BAME population is now 44%, audiences outside specialist theatres and theatre groups remain overwhelmingly white."
In Lloyd Webber's introduction to the report, he states, "I passionately believe that the stage needs to reflect the diversity of the UK population or it risks becoming sidelined. If the situation continues, there is real danger that, not only will black and Asian young people stay away from the theatre as a profession, they will stay away as punters. And without them in the audience, theatres will become unsustainable, as they are forced to compete for a dwindling ageing, white, middle-class audience."
The challenge has also affected casting. He also notes, "When I produced Bombay Dreams over a decade ago and was privileged to introduce the marvellous music of AR Rahman to a West End audience, one of our greatest difficulties was finding enough Asian actors." He added, "I've been acutely aware that one of the biggest issues is the lack of trained diverse talent coming through. Casting directors and theatre producers alike often complain that they’d like to cast more BAME performers, but that they don’t get enough turning up to audition."