A movement has been launched to campaign for greater representation of migrants in UK theatres.
A new organisation, Migrants in Theatre, conducted a survey which showed 86% felt that their status as a first-generation migrant artist had negatively impacted and reduced their work opportunities.
The survey, which questioned 222 people, also found that accents and stereotyping were some of the biggest obstacles faced by migrant actors in gaining work in the industry.
The survey’s findings included other political and social problems, such as the fact that British theatre “needs to better understand visa restrictions and do more to support artists who are here on visa” and “does not acknowledge theatre experience gained elsewhere.” This is particularly interesting considering the popularity of London Stories: Made By Migrants, a play that debuted several years ago highlighting some of these issues in wider society, through more than 20 migrant stories presented at Battersea Arts Centre.
The survey also discovered that migrant artists often feel as though they are not considered worthy of engaging with due to the idea that they do not fit into a stereotype of their nationality viewed under a British gaze. For example, one of the respondents, Jasmine Teo, shared “everyone assumes I do not speak English as a South-East Asian (Chinese) woman. If I even get into interviews, I have to spend part of the interview time proving my language skills or being praised for being ‘articulate’.”
Many participants also revealed that “on many occasions they were told to go back to their countries if they wanted to have a career in the arts.”
The movement comes at a time when the theatre industry is battling the pandemic, with several closures and significant losses, and with renewed attention being paid to migrants attempting to cross the English Channel to arrive in the United Kingdom.
Words by Meghna Amin.