“Free From the White Gaze” – West End Play Stars All-Black Cast And All-Black Audience

A play has been announced in London’s West End that has an all-black cast and is only allowing an all-black audience. Despite critics calling it “racist,” the play has not broken any laws regarding inclusivity.

Unveiling the Concept

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London’s Noel Coward Theatre is set to host unique performances of the play “Slave Play,” starring Kit Harington who starred in Game Of Thrones, the only catch is the cast is “all-black.”

The Play’s Background

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Penned by Jeremy O Harris, the US playwright, “Slave Play” is making its transition from Broadway to London after receiving acclaim and securing 12 Tony nominations. 

Removing the “White Gaze”

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Two performances, known as “Black Out Nights,” are specifically tailored for an “all-black-identifying audience,” that’s “free from the white gaze.”

Exploring Interracial Relationships

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The play explores the complexities of interracial relationships along with sexual therapy through the lens of role-playing as slaves and masters.

A Petition Sparks Controversy

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Back in the US, a petition emerges, advocating for the cancellation of “Slave Play” and denouncing it as “anti-Black sentiment disguised as art.”

Criticism Unleashed

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Criticism from Amy Gallagher, London’s Social Democratic Party mayoral candidate, decried the West End’s plans as “racist.” 

Critic Slams Play For Exclusion 

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Gallagher asserted that excluding individuals based on skin colour constitutes racism, “This is definitely racist. Excluding anyone on the basis of skin colour in this way is racist,” she said.

Website Clarifies Exclusion

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On the website, the play reminds the public that they’re not excluding anyone from the play since the only way you can get a ticket is if you’re selected for one.

Play’s Perceived View of Racism

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Gallagher accused the play of using the “critical race theory definition of racism” where white people are being made to “make up for past discrimination.”

“White Gaze” Criticism

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Gallagher noted that the writers want the audience to be free from the “white gaze” which, she says “of course, means white people.”

Legality Concerns

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Gallagher criticised the writers for not being honest when they refer to the “white gaze,” claiming “they will not go as far to say white people as it would be illegal.”

Asian and Mixed Race Population Exclusion Concerns

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Gallagher described the play’s approach as “extremely simplistic and racist” claiming that the nation’s large “Asian and mixed-race” population has no reason to be excluded from the play.

Other Critics Have Their Say

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The critics have commented on the play’s portrayal of the sexual relationships that black women had with their white owners, many of which were forced. The Noel Coward Theatre has set an age advisory of 16 and over for the play.

All-Black Audience

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To achieve an “all-black” audience, tickets will be invite-only and given to black community groups. If tickets were on sale to the general public and the play turned away white audiences, there would have been legal complications.

An Idea Takes Shape

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Racially specific audiences or “Black Out nights” were initially conceived and tested during the US performances of “Slave Play” in 2019.

Website’s Official Statement

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According to the website, “Black Out nights are 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.”

Harris Defends Play

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Jeremy O Harris defended the initiative on the BBC’s World at One, arguing that because black people used to be told they “do not belong in the theatre,” now they have created a space for them to “feel safe with a lot of other black people.”

Challenging Stereotypes

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Harris contended that “black audiences and white audiences respond to things differently” which is why a “safe” space has been created.

History Repeating?

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This isn’t the first time London has seen an attempt at exclusive performances. In 2023, a Theatre Royal Stratford East performance of the race satire “Tambo & Bones” urged white people not to attend.

Play to Go Ahead

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Despite the critics, the play is set to go ahead as it does not break any laws against inclusivity.

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