No 10 criticises London theatre's 'divisive' plans for black-only nights

The production will run from June 29 until September 21, after a roaring success on Broadway. Credit: Getty

Downing Street has said plans to hold black-only nights at a London theatre are "wrong and divisive".

Slave Play will be staged at the Noël Coward Theatre this summer, and was set to have two performances aimed at an “all-black-identifying audience” that is “free from the white gaze”.

Since the intervention by No 10, the producers of the play said they are "carefully considering" the black-only nights.

A statement from the producers to the PA news agency said: “Our intent is to celebrate the play with the widest possible audience.

“We want to increase accessibility to theatre for everyone.

“The Broadway production conceived Black Out nights and we are carefully considering how to incorporate this endeavour as part of two performances in our 13-week run.

“We will release further details soon. To be absolutely clear, no one will be prevented or precluded from attending any performance of Slave Play.”

On Thursday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: “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.

“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.”

Asked if that was an implied threat about withdrawing taxpayer support, the spokesman said: “No, it is a statement of principle that clearly the arts should be inclusive.

“And I think that taxpayers would particularly expect that to be the case when public funding is involved.”

Kit Harrington stars in the new West End production Credit: PA

Defending the plans for Black Out nights, writer Jeremy O Harris wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “I don’t have to imagine the roles were reversed in my grandparents’ lifetimes AND WORSE.

“I’m not even saying BLACKS ONLY I’m saying I’m inviting black ppl first! They can bring their white friends or lovers if they want. There’s no colour bar. But one existed in the UK recently!”

Slave Play tells a story of “race, identity and sexuality” at the MacGregor Plantation in the southern US during the early 21st century.

It was nominated for a record 12 Tony Awards after its hugely successful on Broadway.

The play stars Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington, and Denzel Washington's daughter Olivia Washington.

The production, playing from June 29 until September 21, plans to stage the two Black Out nights on July 17 and September 17.

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