Theatres acting elitist?

Tabatha Leggett - News Reporter 11 February 2010

British theatre has been criticised for showing an Oxbridge bias.

Last week Lyn Gardner, theatre critic for The Guardian, claimed in her column that “theatre in this country has always had a problem with diversity – and it’s in danger of getting worse.”

The list of Oxbridge graduates involved in theatre includes Nicholas Hytner, Erica Whyman and Josie Rourke. Since its establishment in 1998, five out of the twelve winners of the ‘James Menzies-Kitchin Young Director Award’ were former Oxbridge students.

Speaking to The Cambridge Student (TCS), Dr Abigail Rokison, Director of Studies in English and Drama at Homerton College, explained, “it’s undeniable that people from Cambridge, and Oxford to an extent, have ended up dominating not only British theatre, but also television. I think this is due to a combination of networking opportunities that are available to Cambridge students, such as Trevor Nunn directing ‘Cymbeline’ for The Marlowe Society, and the confidence and ambition that Cambridge instils in its students.”

However, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Artistic Director of The National Theatre and a graduate of Trinity Hall, speaking at the Cambridge Union last week, explained that Cambridge simply encourages the qualities required for directors.

Adam Wood, president of the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatics Club agreed: “I think that the sort of people who become Oxbridge graduates already possess many of the qualities that make them well-suited to the arts: confidence, ambition, creativity and quick-thought.”

Erica Whyman, director and Oxford graduate told TCS: “Some of the most exciting directors and artistic directors in the next generation were not only educated at Oxford or Cambridge, so there is a healthier mix.”

Tabatha Leggett – News Reporter