Amdram group out to address a racial inequality in Peterborough

A scene from Hairspray released in 2007.
A scene from Hairspray released in 2007.
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A Peterborough amdram group’s efforts to stay true to the issues raised in the hit musical Hairspray have been hit by a lack of Afro-Caribbean performers in the city.

The Peterborough Operatic and Dramatic Society (PODS) will start rehearsals for their production of the musical, which comments on racial inequality in 1960s’ America, next month.

However, the society is having trouble filling the roles of characters such as Seaweed J Stubbs, Little Inez Stubbs and Motormouth Maybelle.

Robert Bristow, PODS chairman, said: “ Theatre is mostly, and should be ‘colour blind’ and in the shows I’ve directed for PODS, I’ve always cast members who are best for the role regardless of ethnicity. We believe the ethnicity of actors is only relevant when directly linked to the plot.

“When a character explores or depicts important issues surrounding ethnicity or discrimination, such as in Hairspray, we feel it’s important for the sake of authenticity that the actors cast in these roles reflect the ethnicity of the characters.

“The only problem is, amateur musical theatre in Peterbotrough seems to have its own racial inequalities. We really need more performers from an Afro-Caribbean background to join our society to make the show possible to stage.”

He added: “This isn’t just about our upcoming musical, Hairspray; this is about the members in PODS wanting to be part of a more diverse society, which reflects and includes the people who live, work and play in Peterborough.

“We want to ensure that people from all backgrounds consider PODS a place they can come and express themselves creatively, and have a lot of fun both on and off stage.”

Having contacted a number of organisations linked with Peterborough’s Afro-Caribbean community, there has been some interest in the production.

By appealing for new members at schools, colleges, churches, and community centres, PODS hopes that its membership will reflect the diverse population of people who live, work and play in the city.

So far, however, very few people have come forward to sign up for their new member auditions.

Hairspray will be staged at the Cresset in April 2016. If you are aged 14 or over and interested in getting involved with PODS, you can attend the informal auditions held on Wednesday 16th September at Heltwate School from 7.30pm.

For more information, email the society at: