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Shakespeare has made theatre too white, apparently


The 'disproportionate representation' of William Shakespeare has propagated 'white, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgender male narratives' in theatre, according to a taxpayer-funded study.

In an £800,000 project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, researchers at the University of Roehampton aimed to challenge this 'normative trend' by mounting a production of Gallathea, which features characters disguised as the opposite sex.

The academics said the 16th century comedy, by Shakespeare's contemporary John Lyly, has had 'almost no stage history since 1588'.

The AHRC-funded project is devoted to 'centering marginalised communities in the contemporary performance of early modern plays'.

Writing for the website Before Shakespeare, Andy Kesson, the project's principal investigator, said that 'masculinity and nationalism were crucial motivating factors in the rise of Shakespeare as the arbiter of literary greatness' and that '(we) need to be much, much more suspicious' of the Bard's place in contemporary theatre'.

Author Lionel Shriver told the Sunday Telegraph that Shakespeare would outlast 'this dogmatic mangling', adding: 'His plays will continue to be enjoyed long after today's 'intersectional' performances have foreshortened into a freakish comical footnote in theatrical history.'

Comedian Andrew Doyle said: 'There's a very good reason why Shakespeare is performed frequently and John Lyly barely at all.

'Shakespeare was by far the superior playwright. Yet again, ideologues are reducing great art to mere mechanisms for the promotion of an ideology.'

An Arts and Humanities Research Council spokesman said it 'invests in a diverse research and innovation portfolio' and projects are subject to 'a rigorous peer review process by relevant independent experts'.

A spokesman from the University of Roehampton said: 'This project was funded by a national organisation following a rigorous review process.'

The University of Roehampton project, called 'Diverse Alarums' is due to be completed in two years' time.