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Black Actors Decry ‘Romeo & Juliet’ Abuse

Prominent Black actors including No Time to Die star Lashana Lynch and Enola Holmes’ Susan Wokoma have signed an open letter decrying the abuse faced by Francesca Amewudah-Rivers after she was cast in a West End theatre production of Romeo & Juliet.

The Jamie Lloyd Company announced last month that Amewudah-Rivers will play Juliet alongside Tom Holland‘s Romeo in the staging of William Shakespeare’s tragedy, which opens at the Duke of York’s Theatre on May 23.

The Guardian newspaper reported that 883 people had supported the open letter, which was organized by Wokoma and writer Somalia Nonyé Seaton. Signatories include Sheila Atim (The Woman King), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets & Lies), Lolly Adefope (Ghosts), Freema Agyeman (Doctor Who), Wunmi Mosaku (Damilola, Our Loved Boy), and Tamara Lawrance (Time).

“Too many times, Black performers – particularly Black actresses – are left to face the storm of online abuse after committing the crime of getting a job on their own,” the letter said.

“The racist and misogynistic abuse directed at such a sweet soul has been too much to bear. For a casting announcement of a play to ignite such twisted ugly abuse is truly embarrassing for those so empty and barren in their own lives that they must meddle in hateful abuse.”

It added: “Too many times theatre companies, broadcasters, producers and streamers have failed to offer any help or support when their Black artists face racist or misogynistic abuse. Reporting is too often left on the shoulders of the abused, who are also then expected to promote said show.

“We want to send a clear message to Francesca and all Black women performers who face this kind of abuse – we see you. We see the art you manage to produce with not only the pressures that your white colleagues face but with the added traumatic hurdle of misogynoir.”

The Jamie Lloyd Company has spoken out about the issue, publishing a statement that said there had been a “barrage of deplorable racial abuse directed towards a member of company.” It added: “This must stop. We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment.”

Amewudah-Rivers previously appeared in two seasons of BBC series Bad Education and three short films. She has stage experience in productions at the Globe and Lyric Hammersmith among other venues. Amewudah-Rivers is repped by Curtis Brown.

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