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Revealed: the unseen NYT email that shut down Isis play Homegrown

NYT artstic director Paul Roseby. Photo: Murray Freestone.
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A previously unseen email from National Youth Theatre artistic director Paul Roseby reveals for the first time details of his decision to pull controversial play Homegrown.

In the message to Arts Council England on July 30, Roseby expressed concern about the play’s “one-dimensional tone and opinion” and criticised the writer’s and director’s “extremist agenda”.

The email was obtained from a Freedom of Information request by information activist Doug Paulley.

Homegrown, which was due to run at UCL Academy in north London last month, was pulled less than two weeks before it was due to open.

The play’s cancellation sparked outrage from both the play’s creative team and from the theatre industry.

Written by Omar El-Khairy and directed by Nadia Latif, Homegrown’s subject matter was inspired by the story of three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green in east London, who travelled to Syria to join Isis in February 2015.

The cast was due to be made up of 112 NYT members.

In the email, Roseby said that he had consulted various organisations, including the Metropolitan Police, about the play with regards to “safeguarding our young cohort of members aged 15 to 22”.

“While the police felt it was a valuable and important subject and supported the initiative, they rightly raised concerns over the content with particular reference to any hate crimes and the ability for NYT to control all social media responses,” he wrote.

He continued that the show was “clearly very one-dimensional in tone and opinion, without, as of yet, any intelligent character arcs justifying the content”.

“In other words, a lot of the feedback internally and externally is ‘Why are these decisions being made? Why are we doing this?’ and I personally share those questions and have yet to receive any intelligent responses from the creative team,” he said.

He praised El-Khairy and Latif for their “strong vision and voice” but said there had been no “in-depth analysis, balance or debate around extremism and instead the project seems to be exploring where to place the hatred and blame”.

The email also points towards “insensitive and inappropriate” language used in the rehearsal room towards NYT and that some parents of children involved in the show had expressed “grave concern” over the direction of the piece.

Roseby wrote: “Taking a risk is one of our mantras but if the creative output, mixed with safeguarding issues, is a risk too far, then I’m pulling the show today. The creatives have failed to meet repeated requests for a complete chronological script to justify their extremist agenda and it doesn’t look good for the future of Homegrown on NYT turf”.

He added that pulling the show would save the NYT “a lot of emotional, financial and critical fallout”.

The Stage has requested a comment from NYT. The story will be updated in due course.




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