Sorry, Mike Bradwell, but you can't just blame the Oxbridge lot for theatre's diversity problem

Plus: A chorus of approval for this Commitment to cheap theatre tickets and The Proms go punk, but something better change

Share

Interviews with artistic directors come and go. Sometimes they are interesting, sometimes they are boring, and just occasionally they make you drop the proverbial marmalade. Step forward Mike Bradwell, the founder of Hull Truck theatre company and former head of the Bush Theatre in London, who gave The Stage newspaper his considered, philosophical conclusions on the current state of the performing arts, saying: "Theatre today is run by a bunch of Oxbridge tossers."

This seems a little unfair. Some of my best friends are... well, you know what I mean. Actually, I recall chatting with Sir Ian McKellen prior to the appointment of Nicholas Hytner as head of the National Theatre. Sir Ian said he hoped that the NT would not appoint yet another Cambridge English graduate as the three previous – Trevor Nunn, Peter Hall and Richard Eyre – were all just that. Actually so is Sir Ian, which made the conversation a little surreal. In the event Hytner has proved a particularly brilliant and innovative head of the National, despite those twin handicaps of English and Cambridge.

But Sir Ian and Mr Bradwell were, in their extremely different ways, making similar points, namely that theatre should not be the domain of a particular mindset, which may indeed derive from a particular education. Mr Bradwell claimed theatre is dominated by "half a dozen floppy haired men" who have no real understanding of acting.

He said: "I do think there is a predominance of Oxbridge tossers – although I know some very good directors and actors who went to Oxbridge. But there is always going to be half a dozen floppy haired men, who come out in their early 20s, and end up going for the RSC and the National, and sometimes the Royal Court. They are very ambitious and want to do Titus Andronicus before they are 28, but they don't really know what acting is about. They know what theatre is, as they have read about it. But they have not been in a play or been in a theatre or seen a panto, or been in a working men's club, or a variety club, and got their hands dirty. They don't know what actors do."

It's a tantalising prospect. Ensure all would-be theatre directors have seen a panto and been in a working men's club. That might slim down the pile of applications for the next director of the National Theatre. Indeed, why not make a new panto character, the effete, floppy-haired Oxbridge villain. Boo. Hiss. Would definitely frighten the children. But Mr Bradwell perhaps displays his own narrow vision in what he says. Why a working men's club? Some of those exclude women. They are not exactly bursting with ethnic minorities. The "Oxbridge tossers" wouldn't make that mistake.

I think the key to running a theatre which stages diverse material and appeals to diverse audiences is to be an "enabler" and ensure a diversity of writers, subject matter and, of course, cheap tickets to get a more diverse audience. Ironically, if there is one political viewpoint often missing in British theatre, it is that of the right of centre. And I doubt that was what Mr Bradwell had in mind. He's right to want increased diversity in theatre, on the stage and behind the scenes, But his targets are wrong. Radical thinking is not precluded by your alma mater or floppiness of hair.

A chorus of approval for this Commitment

Some years ago, when I launched a campaign for cheap theatre tickets on one night a week to encourage new, young audiences, one of my greatest supporters was the producer Paul Roberts (no Oxbridge tosser he) who brought on board his show We Will Rock You. I'm pleased that he retains his commitment to cheap tickets with his company's latest production, appropriately enough The Commitments, soon to open at the Palace Theatre in London's West End. One of the infuriating, recent developments in theatre is that so-called previews can be as expensive as normal performances. With this production, all will be half-price, meaning entry can be as low as £5. And there will be 100,000 tickets on sale for the run at £10. I complain enough about how over-priced theatre can discourage new, young audiences, but here's an initiative that deserves praise.

The Proms go punk, but something better change

A mouth-watering programme has been announced for the Proms, but I was a little surprised that much was made of the fact that for the first time a punk band will be playing at the annual feast of classical music. The Stranglers will be joining the line-up this summer. It has been a long time since they were punk, of course, but more importantly the band no longer contains its lead vocalist and songwriter, Hugh Cornwell. In Proms-speak it's a little like announcing that the Berlin Philharmonic will be performing, and neglecting to mention that Simon Rattle won't appear.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas