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Isis play writer and director turn on NYT in censorship row

Promotional shot of Homegrown, which was due to be staged at the National Youth Theatre. Photo: Helen Maybanks Promotional shot of Homegrown, which was due to be staged at the National Youth Theatre. Photo: Helen Maybanks
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Creatives behind a National Youth Theatre production that was cancelled amid claims of censorship have accused the NYT of failing to be “transparent” about the reasons the play was pulled.

The writer and director of the site-specific play Homegrown told The Guardian that the show was pulled due to external pressure, and revealed that police and local authorities became involved in the play’s development.

Homegrown was due to be staged at UCL Academy in north London from August 12 to 29, but NYT confirmed earlier this week that the show would not go ahead.

In a statement, the company said the production was pulled because it was not up to standard.

However, director Nadia Latif and playwright Omar El-Khairy rebutted the statement as factually inaccurate, and claimed the company had “not been transparent” about the real reasons behind the cancellation.

In a statement issued by human rights charity Liberty, Latif and El-Khairy said they were “deeply shocked” about being emailed about the cancellation by NYT artistic director Paul Roseby, who initially commissioned the play.

They said: “There has been a lengthy and active conversation throughout the last six months. Notes have been exchanged and implemented, any concerns on either content [or] script were raised and discussed, we were ahead of schedule and there was open access to scripts and rehearsal content for any member of the company or NYT. No concerns regarding time were raised during the rehearsal process.”

They continued: “As well as the factual inaccuracies of NYT’s statement, we feel that, six days on from being told over email that the show was pulled, it is bewildering that there are still unresolved questions regarding the cancellation of the show two weeks before our scheduled opening.

“We feel that the reasons of this production being pulled down have not been transparent, openly addressed and fully answered.”

They join several young actors due to star in the show in speaking out against the decision. Last week, a number of NYT members took to social media to claim the production had been “censored” and “silenced”.

Homegrown was partly based on interviews with people from the Bethnal Green community from which three young girls travelled to Syria to join Islamic State earlier this year. The cast consisted of 112 NYT members.

The production was originally to be staged at the Raine’s Foundation Upper School in Bethnal Green, but the venue was changed to UCL Academy in mid-July amid council fears that the play was “insensitive”.

A spokesman for the local council in Camden, where UCL Academy is based, told The Stage that the authority had not been involved in the cancellation of the show.

UCL Academy declined to comment.

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