Mainstream theatre in Australia is very white. Too white. Why are we falling behind the rest of the theatrical world in seeing complex diverse casts onstage in our major theatre companies? When you ask this question of theatre practitioners, an awful discourse of blame begins: agents blame casting directors, drama schools blame ‘the industry’, everyone blames artistic directors. Talking about racism in Australia is difficult in the climate of indignant denial. Our vocabulary and strategies for discussing it publicly have become inadequate.
This essay argues that aggressive cross-racial casting of the classical repertoire is a strategy for subverting the ‘inevitability’ of white-centric theatre. It is an important step in the necessary transformation of mainstream theatre into a cultural territory which is fully engaged with the socio-political perplexities of representing Australia on stage and screen. It offers a practical contribution to the re-imaging of the national identity and thus to the construction of an inclusive national imaginary in the future.