The Sunday Times received intense criticism from the arts community, and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), after culture writer John Dugdale referred to the casting of Erica Whyman’s 2018 production of Romeo and Juliet as “garishly diverse”.
Dugdale referenced the diversity of the RSC’s latest production of Romeo and Juliet in relation to an upcoming showing of Macbeth on BBC 4. Dugdale, along with the editor of The Sunday Times (Emma Tucker), were chastised by the RSC in a tweet saying “we are calling out the unacceptable and abhorrent phrase used in today’s Sunday Times listing.”
Criticism over the apparent ‘obtrusive’ diversity seen in Whyman’s production of Romeo and Juliet stems from the decision to cast five traditionally-male roles with female actors; most notably, Mercutio being played by actress Charlotte Josephine (in a homage to the dangers of toxic masculinity), as well as the casting of Bally Gill, an Asian actor, as Romeo.
The RSC have made their commitment to diverse casting and production teams clear over the years.
Perhaps what is most shocking is that the criticism is coming from casting Romeo and Juliet‘s main characters outside of traditional expectations; would the response have been the same if this had happened with ensemble members?
Words by Lucy Martin.