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Chat with a stranger on Victoria Park bench spawns ‘racism’ play

PUBLISHED: 13:20 15 March 2016 | UPDATED: 13:20 15 March 2016

Actors in the play, Made Visible, on a park bench in Victoria Park

Actors in the play, Made Visible, on a park bench in Victoria Park

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A hotly tipped play about racism in London was inspired by a chance conversation with a stranger on a Victoria Park bench, its writer has revealed.

Deborah Pearson who wrote the play, Made VisibleDeborah Pearson who wrote the play, Made Visible

Award-winning artist Deborah Pearson, penned Made Visible – which premieres in Hackney Wick tonight – after sitting next to a woman in a sari in the park and discovering she didn’t know how to speak to her about issues of race.

The play runs for three weeks at the Yard Theatre in Queen’s Road, and it probes political, racial and social tensions in London – and in the world of theatre – by recreating that conversation on stage.

Ms Pearson, originally from Canada, told the Gazette: “Theatre in this country is so disproportionately occupied by white people and that’s a problem.

“There is basically this idea that we frequently see racial stereotypes being performed on stage and those stereotypes are written by white writers.

Actors in the play, Made Visible, on a park bench in Victoria ParkActors in the play, Made Visible, on a park bench in Victoria Park

“The fact that actors who aren’t white have had to play racial stereotypes as frequently as they have is incredibly depressing.

“Even in making this piece I feel annoyed I’m taking these very good actors and asking them to be in a piece about race, because they shouldn’t have to always wear their race on their sleeve. They are good actors who could do a myriad different parts.”

Through her play, Deborah wants to “make the limited perspective of being a white person visible to the audience”.

“There’s a great quote about how ‘male is not treated as a gender, heterosexuality is not treated as a sexual preference, and white is not treated as an ethnicity’,” she explained.

“That’s problematic, particularly in the film industry, where so many screen writers are white, heterosexual men, and we wonder why there are so few interesting parts for women, queer people and people who aren’t white.

“There aren’t very many three-dimensional characters portrayed on stage or on the screen who aren’t white, for the reason that there are not sufficient opportunities for writers who aren’t white.”

The play also touches on how Hackney and east London are being “whitewashed”, and the effects of gentrification.

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