Kwame Kwei-Armah is set to take over as artistic director next year in a major move forward for diversity in British Theatre.
British creatives have been moving to the US to further their career opportunities for some time, taking ideas and talents as they go and ultimately leaving a poorer landscape in Britain in their wake. The Young Vic is now aiming to redress the imbalance with the appointment of the award winning playwright and actor Kwame Kwei-Armah.
Having written his first play back in 1998 entitled ‘Bitter Herb’, Kwei-Armah went on to become the second black British playwright to have his work on at the West End, with a play called ‘Elmina’s Kitchen’. Andrew Lloyd Webber previously described British Theatre as “hideously white” and the news of Kwei-Armah’s appointment has been welcomed by many in the theatre industry.
Kwei-Armah becomes the fourth black or Asian artistic director of major UK theatres: Madani Younis at the Bush theatre, Indhu Rubasingham at the Tricycle and Kully Thiarai at National Theatre Wales.
The multi-award-winning playwright Roy Williams is quoted in the Guardian as saying “I think it’s terrific news and it’s about bloody time, if I’m going to be frank, to see a person of colour leading one of the capital’s most important theatres. It’s something we’ve all been wanting to see for quite some time, and some of us doubted whether it would ever happen. With all the talk about diversity, and the Act for Change movement, we’ve all been waiting to see some action. And no way is this a token gesture. He’s more than proved what a hugely talented writer and director he is – he brought a hugely distinctive voice to British theatre when it was needed – and he’s already run a theatre in America for several years. But this just proves we can do it, that a person of colour is put in charge of a major London theatre and the world didn’t come to an end.”