Bristol Tobacco Factory Theatres’ Factory Company Casting Causes Online Controversy

The casting of a new theatre company in Bristol, has met with some controversy online.

Tobacco Factory Theatres announced the casting of its first Factory Company last week. The professional ensemble was created to perform new in-house productions, which will include Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Miller’s A View From the Bridge. These plays are already booking online and will run at the theatre between February and May this year.

The actors were selected from an open casting call with an emphasis on performers local to Bristol and the surrounding area. The audition requirements specified that the ‘largely local actors’ must have worked or trained professionally and be based within a 20 mile radius of Bristol. Applications were encouraged from actors who have started working in theatre through ‘unconventional routes’ or ‘may not have performed in classical work before’.

Actors of all ‘backgrounds, physical abilities, nationalities and identities’ were also invited.

Members of the Bristol Actors Facebook page, criticised the announced cast. Debate led by member Igne Barkauskaite, felt the cast was not in the ‘spirit of the Factory Company call-out’, lacked diversity and also failed to meet the ‘essential’ criteria for actors to be based within a 20 mile radius of Bristol.

In response to the growing row, Artistic Director Mike Tweddle and Executive Director Lauren Scholey  at Tobacco Factory Theatres welcomed the discussion writing:

‘From the beginning, our ambition for the first Factory Company was to bring together an exciting mix of local actors alongside those from further afield and this was clearly stated in our season brochure and in our call-out info. It was always our intention to seek this mix through open auditions and through the use of a casting director, but we particularly wanted to open up the routes for local actors that we didn’t know or hadn’t worked with before.’

The theatre received over 500 applications for the casting call and met 250 of those for individual auditions.

The final cast includes 6 roles from 11 parts given to locally based actors.

Four Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduates are working in the Factory Company, including Simon Armstrong, Kirris Riviere, Laura Waldren and designer Anisha Fields.

For more information about the Factory Company and its forthcoming productions, visit: www.tobaccofactorytheatres.com