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Written by actor and playwright Jeremy O. Harris, the London version of the play, which also offered “Black Out” performances on Broadway, stars Kit Harington.

By Georg Szalai, The Hollywood Reporter —

A London production of the U.S. play Slave Play, written by actor and playwright Jeremy O. Harris (ZolaEuphoriaGossip Girl), is making political waves after the U.K. prime minister criticized plans to offer two performances exclusively for Black audiences as “wrong and divisive.”

The controversial play is set on a plantation and explores “race, identity and sexuality.” Its 13-week run at London’s Noel Coward Theatre, with a cast that includes Game of Thrones star Kit Harington, is scheduled to include two so-called Black Out performances for an “all-black-identifying audience,” just like the Broadway version of the show offered.

The producers of the London version told BBC News that their hope was “to celebrate the play with the widest possible audience” and that they “want to increase accessibility to theater for everyone.” They added: “The Broadway production conceived of Black Out nights, and we are carefully considering how to incorporate this endeavor as part of two performances in our 13-week run.”

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has expressed his disapproval via a spokesman. The representative said the Conservative Party chief and head of government found that the fact the two performances were promoted as being “free from the white gaze” was “concerning.” Sunak 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,” the rep said. “Restricting audiences on the basis of race would be wrong and divisive.”

The producers told the BBC they would release further details soon, but emphasized: “To be absolutely clear, no one will be prevented or precluded from attending any performance of Slave Play.” The play’s London is scheduled to run June 29-Sept. 21.

Harris explained the rationale for “Black Out” nights to BBC radio earlier this week, saying “this is a night that we are specifically inviting Black people to fill up the space, to feel safe with a lot of other Black people in a place where they often do not feel safe.”

He added: “As someone who wants and yearns for Black and brown people to be in the theater, who comes from a working-class environment, and so wants people who do not make over six figures a year to feel like theater is a place for them, it is a necessity to radically invite them.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Featured image: Slave Play publicity still (Matthew Murphy)