Broadway Bigotry Goes Global: London Run of ‘Slave Play’ Holding Black Audiences-Only Performances ‘Free from the White Gaze’

Jeremy O. Harris
Dan Steinberg/Variety/Penske Media via Getty Images

The upcoming London run of the acclaimed Broadway stage drama Slave Play will hold performances where only “black identifying” people are allowed to attend in what is being billed as an effort to shield them from the “white gaze.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed his disapproval of the decision, calling it “wrong and divisive.”

During its Broadway run more than two years ago, Slave Play producers also held so-called “Black [sic] Out” performances that were reserved for black audiences only.

While barring certain races from a public event is clearly illegal, Slave Play appears to have skirted potential legal trouble in New York by making the black-only performances accessible exclusively by invitation.

The same appears to be true in London.

Slave Play is set to run  June 29 to September 21 at the Noël Coward Theatre in London. The two “Black Out” performances are scheduled for July 17 and September 17.

The site promoting “Black Out” events explained the reasoning thusly: “The purposeful creation of an environment in which an all-Black-identifying audience can experience and discuss an event in the performing arts, film, athletic, and cultural spaces – free from the white gaze.”

Slave Play author Jeremy O Harris, recently told the BBC he was “excited’ by the “Black Out” nights initiative in London.

Watch below:

He said:

“For me, as someone who wants and yearns for black and brown people to be in the theatre, who comes from a working-class environment, who wants people who do not make six figures to feel like theatre is a place for them, it is a necessity to radically invite them in with initiatives that say, ‘You’re invited. Specifically you.’”

“There are a litany of places in our country that are generally only inhabited by white people, and nobody is questioning that, and nobody is saying that by inviting black audiences here you are uninvited.”

The time-hopping drama tells the story of interracial relationships throughout American history, using slavery as the central motif to explore racism, microaggressions, and other contemporary ideas.

Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington will be part of the London cast.

PM Sunak said the black-only performances were “wrong and divisive.”

“The Prime Minister is a big supporter of the arts and he believes that the arts should be inclusive and open to everyone, particularly where those arts venues are in receipt of public funding,” said a spokesperson for Sunak in a statement sent to multiple news outlets. “Obviously, these reports are concerning and further information is being sought. But clearly, restricting audiences on the basis of race would be wrong and divisive.”

“It’s a statement of principle that clearly the arts should be inclusive. And I think that particular taxpayers would particularly expect that to be the case when public funding is involved,” the spokesperson added.

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