Monday, 29 October 2012

The Politics of Representation

It's been a fascinating few weeks for the representation of race on stage.

The American playwright Bruce Norris withdrew his very fine play Clybourne Park from Berlin's Deutsches Theater, one of the the top line German-speaking theatres, when he discovered that the theatre intended to cast a white actress in a black role and 'experiment with make-up'. What made matters even worse is that the play, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and London's Olivier Award for Best Play, deals centrally with race relations. It's not often that we hear of 'blacking up' in the theatre anymore, although the practice is still current in the world's opera houses. Most singers who sing the title role in Verdi's Otello are white and employ make-up. That will happen next year here in Brisbane, for example, when the Lithuanian tenor Kristian Benedikt plays the Moor for Opera Queensland. He will, presumably, 'black up' a little and no one will remark on it.