White London theatregoers were not welcomed to watch a play about African American history, so that black audience members may enjoy the performance “free from the white gaze.”
The Theatre Royal Stratford East in east London has sparked outrage after telling white people to avoid a “Black Out” performance of Tambo & Bones on July 5.
Although the theatre claimed that “no one is excluded,” it made it abundantly clear that white people would not be welcome at the performance, which follows a pair of African Americans on their journey from miscreants to rappers, who eventually join the Marxist Black Lives Matter movement.
“While this performance has been arranged for Black audience members specifically, no one is excluded from attending,” a description for the ‘Black Out’ evening on the theatre’s website stated.
“A Black Out night is the purposeful creation of an environment in which an all-black-identifying audience can experience and discuss an event in the performing arts, film, and cultural spaces – free from the white gaze,” the theatre explained.
In comments provided to The Telegraph newspaper, Britain’s first black police and crime commissioner (PCC), Festus Akinbusoye said that excluding people based on race would “poor and dangerous precedent” and therefore “strongly urged” the theatre and director to cancel the ‘Black Out’ event.
“Society is richer and stronger when an understanding of each other’s cultures and stories are shared and heard,” the PCC for Bedfordshire said. “However I believe the Black Out concept runs contrary to this education and enrichment ethos.”
“As a lover of theatre performances – Hamilton being a recent one I attended – it was a great experience being able to share this with people of all races and cultures,” Akinbusoye continued. “Despite its majority black or visibly ethnic minority cast, I would not have watched it if it had been a ‘Black Out’ performance.”
Matthew Xia, the director of the play’s British run, reportedly wrote in promotional material: “Over the last few years, a number of playwrights and directors in the US and the UK have created private and safe spaces for black theatregoers to experience productions that explore complex, nuanced race-related issues.”