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NYT radicalisation play axed amid cries of censorship

Homegrown was to be staged by the National Youth Theatre later this month Homegrown was to be staged by the National Youth Theatre later this month. Photo: Helen Maybanks
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UPDATE: Isis play writer and director turn on NYT in censorship row

National Youth Theatre actors have complained of censorship after a production about radicalisation in schools was cancelled less than two weeks before it was due to open.

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

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.

A statement from NYT on the cancellation read: “The production of Homegrown will no longer go ahead.

“After some consideration, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot be sufficiently sure of meeting all of our aims to the standards we set and which our members and audiences have come to expect. All purchased tickets will be fully refunded.”

However, a number of young actors who were due to star in the show took to social media to voice their frustration.

After being informed the production would be cancelled on July 31, Qasim Mahmood tweeted: “Censored. Our voices were silenced today.”

Another NYT member, Sean O’Driscoll, wrote on Instagram: “Although we were prevented from delivering this powerful social message, I am so proud to have been a part of the cast of Homegrown and we should take courage in what we created.”

Homegrown was originally to be staged at the Raine’s Foundation Upper School in Bethnal Green, but the venue was changed in mid-July amid fears it was “insensitive”.

A spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets council said: “The school was not aware of the subject of the play when they agreed to lease the premises. Once they became aware, they decided that it would not be appropriate to rent their premises to the National Youth Theatre. The news of the missing school girls has had a huge emotional impact on their families and friends, as well as the entire local community. Hosting this play in the heart of this community at Raine’s School would be insensitive.”

The cancellation of Homegrown altogether follows a year in which censorship in the arts has drawn heightened attention. A show by Israeli company Incubator Theatre was cancelled at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the face of escalating protests in August 2014, and the Barbican’s performance art installation Exhibit B closed under similar circumstances in October.

UCL Academy was not available for comment at the time of publication.

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