My blog has quite a lot of posts about Samuel West (Mr Selfridge, The Frankenstein Chronicles) and Charles Edwards (Waste at the National Theatre).
I have also written some posts about diversity in the entertainment industry.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Samuel West - Good Morning Britain and Baz Productions

Sam will be a guest on Good Morning Britain tomorrow (Thursday), presumably to discuss the latest series of Mr Selfridge (@GMBDaily).

He is listed as a supporter of Baz Productions. The organisation produces plays and runs various education and training programs. Harriet Walter is a patron; other supporters include the Harold Pinter Estate and Tom Stoppard.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Samuel West - The Somme Remembered, Shakespeare Solos, The Book of Disquiet, Present Laughter

Sam is the reader for "The Somme Remembered" at Milton Court on 11 February (via @BBCSingers).

(screencap from the Shakespeare Solos trailer)
He plays Henry V in Shakespeare Solos, a video series from the Guardian which begins 1 February (via @hollowcrownfans).

My Storify for The Book of Disquiet is below. Sam performed in the English language premiere of the work at Montclair State University earlier this month. The New York Times described Sam's performance as "riveting."
It will next be performed at the Southbank Centre 24-25 February.

He is the reader for Shakespeare's Silence, a documentary which will be broadcast 17 April on BBC Radio 4 (Silents Now and Judith Buchanan's Twitter, @jrbyork 1|2|3).

Garrick's Ode will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 22 April (BBC Media Centre via Gramophone).

Present Laughter will tour to the Cambridge Arts Theatre 25-30 July, prior to a West End transfer (via cambridgebid.co.uk). Sam stars as Garry Essendine in this production, which will be initially performed June-July at the Theatre Royal Bath.

This week, Sam played Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in a radio play (his Twitter, @exitthelemming).

The Aurora Orchestra, Sam and Katherine Parkinson will perform Kreutzer vs. Kreutzer in the Southbank Centre's 2016/17 season (the Centre's Twitter, @southbankcentre). They previously performed the work at The Globe in July 2015.


Sam and Zoe Richards discussed Mr Selfridge on the Radio 2 Arts Show on Friday; here's a picture of them in the studio.

(screencap from CBeebies Bedtime Stories)
Last Sunday, he read "The Jumblies" by Edward Lear on CBeebies Bedtime Stories. It is available on iPlayer for 23 more days.

Andrew Lycett tweeted a picture of Sam at a Rudyard Kipling event at Burgh House on 14 January. Lycett and Piers Plowright discussed Kipling's life and work.

Sam is the reader for the Sunday Feature "Charles Dickens: Great Expectations" (via @jadehamilton1). It was broadcast on 10 January.

Kipling in Love "In the Pride of His Youth" was repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra on New Year's Day.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Diversity: Idris Elba, BAME Shakespeare, Act for Change, #oscarssowhite

"I read a script, it says, 'Black man, tall. And then it says, leading man.' I'm like, what? What colour's he? Blue?"
A quote from a New York Times video interview with Idris Elba. This is the accompanying screencap:

Idris spoke to Parliament about diversity in the media, ahead of the Channel 4 diversity conference. The transcript is here and the video is here. His recommendations for improving diversity are:
  1. Incorporating diversity at the beginning of the creative process
  2. Measuring how well broadcasters do diversity
  3. Take more risk with diverse talent

The Independent has an interview with Femi Oguns, who suggests that quotas are a starting point for achieving proportional representation of diversity in the performing arts (via @IGottaBeMeMovie):
"Fourteen per cent of the population is BAME but only five per cent of talent on screen is. The BBC is just ticking boxes. It has an ‘aspiration’ for 15 per cent of BAME screen talent by 2017 – why not just make it happen? Why are black directors in theatre only qualified to direct ‘culturally specific’ works? Theatre is still dominated by white middle-class decision-makers who are qualified not only to tell their life stories but over-qualified to tell yours also."
Oguns is the founder of the Identity School of Acting and the Identity Agency Group.

Samuel West's speech for the UK Disability History Month Conference (November 2015) is available on Youtube. He has suggested, "We look to every producer to be more imaginative. Nobody really knows what the public wants, so don't try to gainsay it. Make the best thing you can and make it as open and diverse as possible." (via @zakfordwilliams).

Act for Change has become a registered charity (their Twitter, @actforchangehq). Donations will fund:

The University of Warwick has launched an online database that documents BAME participation and representation in Shakespeare productions (@BBAShakespeare via a retweet from Act for Change). Although productions have become more multicultural, BAME performers are more likely to be cast in supporting roles such as a witch in Macbeth; Laertes, Ophelia, Horatio, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz in Hamlet; or Hero and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing.

Excerpt from a New York Times discussion about #oscarssowhite:
A.O. Scott: Spike Lee will get his lifetime achievement award. Chris Rock will be the host. Many of the presenters will be minorities. Integrally close to none of the winners will be. There will be awkward remarks and uncomfortable smiles. The intensity of the discomfort might be a hopeful sign.

In relation to Idris Elba's recent speech about diversity and #oscarssowhite, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald ("White wash" in the print edition, "Oz so white?" in the online edition) suggests that Australian performing arts is not representative of the community. The federal government and broadcasters have supported Indigenous and gender equity programs, however more needs to be done to represent cultural diversity.
Producer Darren Dale: "When you walk down the street, our community is so diverse, and I don't think you can see that on Australian drama at all... there's a healthy expectation that you should see yourself [represented] on screen."
Bali Padda (co-chair, MEAA diversity committee): "If we don't have a diverse range of people creating stories – writers, producers and directors – then the characters written for the Indian or Middle Eastern or whatever becomes a bit tokenistic. And that's not representative either... My personal measure of success is that we won't need to have these kinds of conversations again [emphasis added]."

Monday, 11 January 2016

Samuel West - CBeebies Bedtime Stories, The Book of Disquiet, Sunday Brunch, Henry V

Sam will read "The Jumblies" by Edward Lear on CBeebies Bedtime Stories, Sunday 24 January (BBC press office).

In an article in the Montclair Dispatch, Michel van der Aa said, "Sam West has been really wonderful in rehearsals [for The Book of Disquiet].  He made the part his own and I can’t wait to see it on stage”. It will be performed  21-24 January at Montclair State University (click here for tickets).

He will perform at the Menuhin 100 Festival in July, "in a celebration in words and music of the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare" (Yehudi Menuhin School).


Sam was a guest on yesterday's episode of Sunday Brunch. During the show he tweeted a picture of himself with the board games has only played once. Here are some pictures of Sam in the studio.

He is a signatory on a letter opposing making the English Baccalaureate compulsory in schools (his Twitter, @exitthelemming).

Below is my Storify for the Henry V performance with the CBSO: press reviews, tweets from Sam as well as tweets from orchestra, chorus and audience members. The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 today.

Sam is pictured in Vortex issue #83, alongside a feature about The Diary of River Song. He plays Mr Song in the episode "Signs".

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Charles Edwards - Waste

Charles has been quoted in a Guardian article about how a play changes throughout its run:
"'It’s not license to starting imposing your own original ideas,' says Charles Edwards, playing Henry Trebell in Waste, 'but once a director goes, you find that running the thing with a crowd, allowing the language to strike you in ways it hasn’t already, you make realisations of your own.'"

Here are some screencaps from the trailer for the play.

Waste is playing at the National Theatre until 19 March.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Diversity: I Gotta Be Me, Noma Dumezweni, ACE funding, film criticism

I Gotta Be Me is a 'real' documentary about Paul Shah, an actor playing Sammy Davis Jr in a tribute show. Phaldut Sharma plays Shah and is a co-creator for this web series. Click here for his thoughts on major themes in the series - diversity and identity.
Episodes 1-3 are now available; new episodes will be released in February (I found out about this web series because they mentioned me on Twitter).

Noma Dumezweni has been profiled in this article in the Independent about British immigrant contributions to the arts, science, food, fashion and sport (via her Twitter, @MissDumezweni). She stars in Linda at the Royal Court, which closes this Saturday. Her next project is her directorial debut - I See You, also at the Royal Court.

Malcolm Sinclair (president of Equity) spoke about increasing BME representation on screen and stage at the WhatsOnStage Awards nominations launch in December (The Stage via Act for Change's Twitter, @actforchangehq):
"All parts should now be available, rather than just the ones that are designated ‘ethnic’ parts... you have to call the people that actually make the decisions to account, which is the producers and directors."

Last month, Arts Council England released a report about diversity relating to workforce, programming, audiences and funding (via The Stage). It is based on data from 2012-2015. Its publication coincided with the announcement of four funding programs to lift BAME (black and minority ethnic) and disabled investment and development:
  • Change Makers - a leadership program
  • Unlimited - a single grant of £1.8 million will be made to an organisation to develop a range of new work by Deaf and disabled artists
  • Sustained Theatre - this is for emerging and established practitioners to increase BAME representation across the theatre sector
  • Elevate - this is for diverse-led organisations outside of the Council’s National Portfolio

The Atlantic has an article about the gender imbalance in film criticism (via Lucy Prebble's Twitter, @lucyprebblish). For example, in four US film critics' assocations, women make up less than a quarter of members. The article suggests that the recent drop in film criticism by women is related to the rise of digital.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Samuel West - Henry V, Rudyard Kipling, Mr Selfridge series 4 premiere

[updated 4 January]

Here is a round up of Sam's performances and events in January.

The fourth (and final) series of Mr Selfridge premieres 8 January. Sam (as Frank Edwards) appears briefly in a clip featuring new characters the Dolly sisters (deadline.com).

A couple of radio repeats: Votes for Women is available on iPlayer until 26 January and Archive on 4 "Attention All Shipping" will be broadcast 9 January on BBC Radio 4 Extra. In the latter, Sam reads a whole shipping forecast.


In mid December, Sam wrote about Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan for Ruth and Martin's Album Club. His piece suggests that whisky is a good drink to go with the album.

Jon Foster from Origin Housing tweeted this picture of Sam receiving a cheque donation on behalf of Scene & Heard.
Sam, who is a patron of Scene & Heard, tweeted this about one of their recent performances
The Shakespeare Institute tweeted this picture of Sam as David Garrick. He will perform Garrick's Ode with Ex Cathedra, April-May this year.

Charles Edwards - Words and Music

Charles and Olivia Williams are the readers for Words and Music "Northern Lights: The North Pole". It is available on iPlayer for two more days.

Charles and Olivia are currently starring in Waste at the National Theatre, which closes 19 March. Click here for my review round up and Storify about the production.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Samuel West - CBeebies bedtime stories, Book of Disquiet, Ode to Shakespeare

On 18 December, Sam will be the guest on Ruth and Martin's Album Club. He will listen to something from 1965 for the first time (via their Twitter, @RamAlbumClub).

He has recorded five bedtime stories for CBeebies, which will be broadcast in January (his Twitter, @exitthelemming).

Sam confirmed that he will perform Garrick's Ode to Shakespeare on tour with Ex Cathedra from 22 April to 28 May, in various venues in the Midlands (the Guardian reported this in 2014).


Last week, Sam went to a protest against the closure of The Cass (the Sir John Cass Art, Architecture and Design Faculty, London Metropolitan University) - see this tweet from the National Campaign for the Arts (NCA) and pictures from @highburyonfoot/Caroline Russell 1|2
The NCA has tweeted their response to the UK government's Spending Review. It was written by Sam, who is the chair of the organisation.
He read from AA Gill at the Comment Awards (@ruthmastenbroek, @susiesymes1, @ayeshahazarika and @exitthelemming).
Sam tweeted a diagram (?) of stage directions from Book of Disquiet rehearsals. It will be performed 21-24 January at Montclair State University (click here for tickets) and the Southbank Centre 24-25 February.

Here is a selection of tweets about D'Apres Shakespeare (Rouen Théâtre des Arts 20 November et Le Havre, Le Volcan 21 November).

Sam recorded his contribution to the Portrayal of Disability conference (19 November) due to a scheduling conflict (rehearsals for D'Apres Shakespeare).

The Peace Brigades International website has a recap and photos from "Shakespeare and the Law" (16 November). Sam, Juliet Stevenson, Sheila Hancock and Alex Jennings performed excerpts from The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night and Henry IV.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

A selection of recent articles about cultural, socioeconomic and gender diversity

... in the entertainment industries in the US, the UK and Australia.

In the New York Times, Aziz Ansari has written about the disproportionate representation of characters with a range of ethnicities:
"whatever progress toward diversity we are making, the percentage of minorities playing lead roles is still painfully low... at a time when minorities account for almost 40 percent of the American population, when Hollywood wants an “everyman,” what it really wants is a straight white guy. But a straight white guy is not every man."
Click here to read his article in full (via Act for Change's Twitter, @actforchangehq).

Asian American actors performed some of their dream roles from musical theatre in the Changing the Stats: Asian Americans on Broadway concert (2 November, Symphony Space). Playbill has a compilation of clips from the performance. The concert was co-sponsored by the Actors' Equity Association. Christine Toy Johnson, chair of the Association's Equal Employment Opportunity Committee, said that the "concert of dream roles not traditionally cast with Asian American actors was a true celebration and extension of our tenacity in achieving more and more."

Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands) discusses his career and how Asian characters are represented on screen, in an interview on Slate (via @monkeywonder's retweet). An excerpt:
You didn’t think about trying to come back and make it in Hollywood?
"I knew from growing up that they wouldn’t put my kind of people onscreen. There were no decent roles for Asians, much less Asian males. Even when Jackie Chan broke through over here and people fell in love with him, they weren’t really seeing him as this iconic, superstar actor—they were seeing him as this cute, funny oriental dude who spoke broken English and did acrobatic tricks. As an Asian American male, what they were in love with is everything you hate, you know?"

The Guardian partnered with an academic research team to launch a survey about diversity in the creative industries in the UK (via Samuel West's Twitter, @exitthelemming). The key findings are:
  • At least 75% of people working in the arts have a middle class background, which suggests that it is difficult for people who don't have this financial privilege to break into these industries.
  • White and BAME (black and minority ethnic) arts employees have relatively disparate views on ethnicity. 29% of BAME respondents to the survey believed that ethnicity is very important in getting ahead, compared to 10% of white respondents.
  • On average, women earn 32% less than men
More results have been published on createlondon.org

The Australian Directors Guild has proposed a quota for Screen Australia: to allocate 50% of production funding to projects directed by women. The Guild has called on support from government agencies and the ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) to support this initiative (the Guild's press release).
Thanks to Maddy, who is co-creator of Those Two Duffers.