Tom Holland ‘Romeo And Juliet’ show target of ‘barrage of racial abuse’


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“I defy you, stars” wrote The Bard in “Romeo and Juliet.”

Replace “stars” with “racists”, and you’ve got some idea where the producers of the forthcoming West End production of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy are at.

The new production, billed as “a pulsating new vision of Shakespeare’s immortal tale of wordsmiths, rhymers, lovers and fighters,” has been the target of racist abuse – aimed at an unnamed cast member.

The show’s full cast was announced last week, and upon revealing the players, the Jamie Lloyd Company said there had been a “barrage of deplorable racial abuse directed towards a member of company.”

Their statement said:

“This must stop. We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment. We will continue to support and protect everyone in our company at all costs. Any abuse will not be tolerated and will be reported. Bullying and harassment have no place online, in our industry or in our wider communities.”

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The statement continued by saying that the rehearsal room “is full of joy, compassion and kindness.”

“We celebrate the extraordinary talent of our incredible collaborators. The ‘Romeo & Juliet’ community will continue to rehearse with generosity and love, and focus on the creation of our production.”

‘Romeo and Juliet’ will mark the first time Tom Holland has appeared on stage as an adult, having previously starred in ‘Billy Elliot: The Musical’ as a child. His co-star Francesca Amewudah-Rivers will play Juliet in the Jamie Lloyd-directed show. She makes her West End debut in the play, and previously appeared in two seasons of BBC series Bad Education and three short films.

Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers

This depressing news does not come out of nowhere, as any casting involving gender or race switching in films, TV shows or plays is usually met with hateful remarks.

In 2021, a survey titled “Race Between the Lines: Actors’ Experience of Race and Racism in Britain’s Audition and Casting Process and on Set” was commissioned by the Personal Managers’ Association’s newly installed Racial Diversity Group — a collective of top British talent agents who convened earlier this year to tackle issues of race faced by actors of colour in the UK. The study found that 64% of respondents experienced racist stereotyping in an audition, and 55% experienced racist behaviour in the workplace.

‘Romeo and Juliet’ will debut at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London on 11 May and is booked to run until 3 August. There are already rumours that the show will then transfer to Broadway.

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