The lack of diversity in the film industry has been in the national news a lot this year.
Earlier this autumn British actor David Oyelowo issued a plea for a more diverse industry, saying he moved to the US because of the lack of opportunities for black actors here.
But in South Holland, the problem is reversed, with the director of one upcoming amateur production appealing for a male of West Indian origin to get in touch.
However, they need to be able to act because while the role that director Martin Tyrrell has in mind is not massive, he says it is “a significant one” with around 15 to 20 minutes on stage in each of two acts.
Martin is directing One Man, Two Guvnors on behalf of St Nicolas Players at South Holland Centre in March next year.
Auditions are taking place on Thursday (7pm) and Sunday (2pm) in the society’s regular rehearsal space in Spalding.
However, Martin has a dilemma.
From his experience in amateur dramatics locally – he has worked with four different societies over more than six years – there are no black amateur actors and very few of mixed ethnic origin.
He suggests that is simply because the numbers of black and non-white residents in South Holland is fairly low in any case, but adds: “If you ask for my personal opinion, amateur dramatics is seen as a bit of a middle-class and almost white thing, it seems to me.
“It seems there is a certain type of people who go into amateur dramatics and very few of them are non-white.
“Spalding is predominantly white anyway, and I am sure if you go to amateur groups in the east end of London you would have a good proportion of black actors as well.”
Martin is trying hard to find a black actor – preferably of middle-age, though he says a lot can be done with make-up – for the sake of authenticity.
He says: “There are two types of directors I have come across: one that will do Henry V in witches’ costumes and pogo sticks and directors like me who think, ‘Shakespeare wrote it like this and that’s how I want to do it’.
“If there is a Jamaican in the script, that’s what I want.
“It’s important to have an authentic character because it’s in the original script and the script has that Jamaican patois in the way it is written.
“If we are unsuccessful then we can adapt the script, but I would prefer not to.”
The character is Lloyd Boateng, an ex-con and friend to Charlie Clench, who was played by black actor Trevor Laird in the West End production.
The script is Richard Bean’s adaptation of Servant of Two Masters, an historical Italian comedy play written in 1743.
When he adapted the original play Richard Bean moved the setting to 1960s Brighton.
In the story, Francis Henshall becomes separately employed by two men – Roscoe Crabbe, a local gangster, and Stanley Stubbers, an upper-class criminal – and needs to prevent each of them learning about the other’s existence.
There is further confusion though because it turns out that Roscoe is actually his twin sister Rachel in disguise, Roscoe having been murdered by her lover – none other than Stanley Stubbers.
Martin explains: “It was the first play that signified a style called Commedia dell’arte, basically it’s a type of farce which obviously involves mis-direction, a lot of improvisation and slapstick.
“Essentially the characters have been given new names, but are the same as in the original, and it’s a play about love, sex and food actually.
“The dilemma is we can’t find a Jamaican. We haven’t looked very deeply yet, but I don’t know any amateur actors of West Indian origin.
“I think a non-white actor would bring (to amateur dramatics) exactly the same thing as a mix of ethnicity brings to society as a whole.
“It should reflect the mix of ethnicity in all plays, whether amateur or professional. If it is set in Brighton in 1963 there was a small but significant proportion of people who were non-white so it should reflect the society it is intended to portray.”
Anyone who would like to audition for the role should email firstname.lastname@example.org or give Martin a ring on 07925 400303.
Visit stnicolasplayers.co.uk for more information.