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Panto producer issues riposte to ‘too many black cast members’ complaint

Cleopatra, who are in this year's pantomime at the Stag Theatre.
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A producer has issued a strong rebuttal to a claim his pantomime in Kent has “too many black people in the cast”, stating he aims to “work with the most talented performers we can find”.

Jamie Alexander Wilson has penned an open letter in response to an unnamed man who called the box office of the Stag Community Arts Centre in Sevenoaks to complain there were too many black people in the cast, which includes singer Michelle Gayle and pop act Cleopatra.

In his letter, he said: “This year, of the hundreds of young dancers who auditioned to perform in the show, we feel the need to warn you: two or three of the girls we cast are black. Should we tell them they can’t be in panto now, or can we just split them up, so we don’t have more than one black girl on stage at any one time?”

Wilson went on to explain that pantomime is not a British invention, claiming its roots can be traced to Ancient Greece, and that it uses characters from the Italian commedia dell’arte.

He responded to a complaint from the caller that the cast does not represent Sevenoaks.

“Fairy-wise, we struggled to find ‘yummy mummies’ with the vocal and physical strength to deliver 18 shows a week, so we were forced to compromise by casting Cleopatra, a pop trio who have had their own TV sitcom, sung for the Pope, and supported the Spice Girls and Madonna. Their lead singer is currently on the world tour of Thriller Live. I mean, she’s black, but I guess she can sing a bit,” he wrote.

Wilson concluded the letter by stating that as the show is not set in Sevenoaks, it had not occurred to him to try to represent the town.

“Our aim has been to work with the most talented performers we can find, tell a story in the most magical way we can, and produce the best possible pantomime for our audiences each year,” he said.

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