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‘Slave Play’ Black Out Performances Slammed by U.K. Prime Minister’s Office as ‘Wrong and Divisive’

Two proposed “Black Out” London West End performances of Jeremy O. Harris‘ “Slave Play” have come under fire from U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office.

The controversial play about race, identity and sexuality in 21st century America is set at the MacGregor Plantation, where the Old South is alive and well. It follows three interracial couples undergoing “Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy” to reinvigorate their relationships.

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During the run of “Slave Play,” two Black Out nights on July 17 and Sept. 17 are planned, which 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,” according to a statement from the production.

“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,” said a spokesperson for Sunak. “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.

“Slave Play,” which is transferring from Broadway, will play June 29 – Sept. 21 at the Noël Coward Theatre, which is part of the privately owned Delfont Mackintosh Theatre group.

Black Out nights are not a new phenomenon, with London hosting such performances for “Daddy,” also by Harris, and “Tambo & Bones” in the recent past.

“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 producers of “Slave Play” said in a statement. “We will release further details soon. To be absolutely clear, no one will be prevented or precluded from attending any performance of ‘Slave Play.'”

“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,” Harris posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

In a further post on Thursday night, he said, “In a slight rage over the moral panic that that a certain aspect of the British public have frothed up around Black Out Nights, two nights out of over a hundred, that have seen audiences members of all race in attendance over the last four years since its inception on Broadway … “To know that your prime minister was called upon to discuss this weeks after he said he wouldn’t endorse a ceasefire is inconceivable. GROW UP! This has happened in NYC, LA, and London (yes already happened in London!) to great acclaim. And you didn’t notice. Bc you don’t care.”

“Slave Play” features “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington, Fisayo Akinade (“The Crucible,” “Heartstopper”), Aaron Heffernan (“Brassic,” “Atlanta”), Olivia Washington (“I Am Virgo”), James Cusati-Moyer (“Six Degrees of Separation,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Chalia La Tour (“Elementary”), Annie McNamara (“Orange is the New Black”) and Irene Sofia Lucio (“The Americans”).

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