U.K. Prime Minister Calls SLAVE PLAY Black Out Nights 'Wrong and Divisive'

Slave Play producers and playwright Jeremy O. Harris have responded to the backlash on social media.

By: Mar. 01, 2024
U.K. Prime Minister Calls SLAVE PLAY Black Out Nights 'Wrong and Divisive'
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The U.K. Prime Minister's Office had a negative reaction to the previously announced "Black Out" nights at the upcoming West End production of Slave Play. The Black Out nights, planned for 17 July and 17 September, are described in a press release as an evening where "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."

However, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak believes that these events are "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," the spokesperson stated. "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.

Playwright Jeremy O. Harris first introduced Black Out nights during the production of Slave Play on Broadway when, for the first time in history, all 804 seats of Broadway’s Golden Theatre were occupied by Black-identifying audience members.

Check out photos from the Black Out night at Slave Play on Broadway here.

Slave Play's producers responded to the Prime Minister's comments, which garnered a lot of outrage and conversation, stating, "To be absolutely clear, no-one will be prevented or precluded from attending any performance of Slave Play."

"We want to increase accessibility to theater for everyone. 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," the statement reads.

Harris also took to X to respond to this outrage, stating, "I make my work for the now and people of it. People who want to see the audience around them look like the people in their neighborhood or from their tube ride. That only happens with things like Black Out Nights, 1 pound ticket offers, and direct communication w young ppl."

He also mentioned that the Black Out nights previously happened in London already, as well as New York City and Los Angeles, and none of this outrage occured at that time. 

He also noted, "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."

According to the statement from Slave Play producers, further details about the course of action regarding the Black Out nights will be released soon.

About Slave Play

Jeremy O. Harris' Slave Play will begin performances June 29 at the Noël Coward Theatre in limited run continuing through September 21. 

The cast will be led by Kit Harington and Olivia Washington with Fisayo Akinade and Aaron Heffernan, as well as a number of actors from the show's New York productions including James Cusati-MoyerChalia La TourAnnie McNamara, and Irene Sofia Lucio, La Tour, and Cusati-Moyer.

Robert O'Hara, director of the Broadway production, is set to return alongside the full creative team including scenic designer Clint Ramos, costume designer Dede Ayite, lighting designer Jiyoun Chang, and composer and sound designer Lindsay Jones.

Slave Play is a three-act play by Jeremy O. Harris, which follows three interracial couples undergoing "Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy" because the black partners no longer feel sexual attraction to their white partners. 

The play first debuted off-Broadway on November 19, 2018, and then opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre on October 6, 2019. In 2019, Slave Play was nominated for Best Play in the Lucille Lortel Awards, and Claire Warden won an Outstanding Fight Choreography Drama Desk Award for her work in the play.

At the 74th Tony Awards, Slave Play received 12 nominations, breaking the record set by the 2018 revival of Angels in America for most nominations for a non-musical play, though it did not receive any awards.