UK Prime Minister Denounces All-Black Audience and Cast at West End Play

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has condemned the announcement of a new West End play that has an “all-black-identifying audience” and cast, suggesting that these ideas are “concerning” and “divisive.”

Approach to Theatre Inclusivity

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Producers of the upcoming West End play, “Slave Play,” have been slammed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after it was announced they would have an “all-black-identifying audience.”

Broadway Hit’s West End Debut

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The renowned Broadway production, set to star Kit Harington of Game of Thrones, is introducing the concept of “Black Out” performances in the UK featuring an all-black cast and audience.

Kit Harington Stars in “Slave Play”

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“Slave Play,” featuring renowned actor Kit Harington, is set to captivate London audiences at the Noel Coward Theatre from June 29 to September 21.

Exclusive Nights Aimed at Diversity

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The “Black Out” nights aim to provide a unique space for an all-black audience to experience and discuss the play “free from the white gaze,” according to the play’s official website.

Criticism from Downing Street

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The announcement faced criticism from Downing Street, with a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arguing that the rhetoric and practice of “Black Out” nights is nothing but “divisive.”

Invite-Only Events

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The writers of the play argued that they are not excluding anyone from the audience, since the tickets can only be required if individuals are invited to have one, calling the nights “private, invitation-only events”.

Sunak’s Restriction Argument

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Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson argued that despite the invite-only rule, “Black Out” nights are “Restricting audiences on the basis of race” which he called “wrong and divisive”.

Sunak Finds Reports “Concerning”

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Sunak’s spokesperson said “Obviously, these reports are concerning and further information is being sought,” in response to the black-only audiences.

Mayoral Candidate’s Critique

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A London Mayoral candidate representing the Social Democratic Party, Amy Gallagher, declared the play as “definitely racist”, arguing that “Excluding anyone on the basis of skin colour in this way is racist.”

Theatrical Exploration of Race, Identity, and Sexuality

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“Slave Play,” written by US actor and playwright Jeremy O. Harris, explores sexual relationships between certain slave owners and black women during the time, which has resulted in criticism.

Producers Claim “Safe” Space

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The producers argued that members of the black-only audience can “experience and discuss an event … free from the white gaze” as the play explores “race, identity and sexuality” in a “safe” environment.

Criticism of “White Gaze”

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Gallagher criticised the term “White Gaze,” saying that they mean “of course… white people” and arguing they are only using the term for legal reasons, “they will not go as far to say white people as it would be illegal,” she said.

Writer Defends Play

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According to O. Harris, the play is necessary because black people were once told they “do not belong in the theatre” arguing that, “black audiences and white audiences respond to things differently.”

Emergence of “Black Out” Nights in British Theatre

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The concept of “Black Out” nights, initially pioneered in New York, has gained popularity in British theatre, with several publicly funded companies embracing them to diversify audiences, much to the critique of the government.

Game of Thrones Star Wants More Black Actors and Audiences

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Game of Thrones star Harris argued that he “wants and yearns for black and brown people to be in the theatre” hoping that his efforts will attract more working-class families to the theatre, inspiring young actors.

Importance of Invite-Only Events

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Harris argued the importance of invite-only events, “it is a necessity to radically invite them in with initiatives that say: ‘You’re invited. Specifically, you’,” he said.

US Petition to Stop “Slave Play”

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After the plays were announced in the US, a petition was created to prevent them from going ahead, arguing that “Slave Play” is “anti-Black sentiment disguised as art.”

No Plans to Stop Event

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Although the government have described the “Black Out” night as “concerning” there are no current plans to prevent them from going ahead.

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