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The Print Room issues apology over ‘yellowface’ row

The Print Room at the Coronet. Photo: Marc Brenner
The Print Room at the Coronet. Photo: Marc Brenner
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Fringe venue the Print Room has apologised for the offence it caused by casting Caucasian actors in a play set in ancient China.

In a statement, the west London venue also confirms it is discussing the matter with Equity with a view to “fully exploring the challenges of maintaining artistic freedom while honouring the obligation of a modern arts organisation to actively promote diversity in all its forms”.

Addressing its casting, it states: “We can see how it has led to concerns and misapprehensions. No offence was intended.”

However, the statement published on its website, which has been released in addition to a previous statement it issued earlier this week, reiterates that the play in question – In the Depths of Dead Love by Howard Barker – “is not a Chinese play and the characters are not Chinese”. This is despite the play being set in ancient China with characters that have Chinese names.

“These are literary allusions in Howard Barker’s fable and never intended to be taken literally. The allusions are intended to signify ‘not here, not now, not in any actual real ‘where’’ and the production, set, costumes and dialogue follow this cue of ‘no place’,” it says.

It adds: “The Print Room understands that some will find such an interplay between cultural reference and artistic imagination troubling. We regret that our initial public announcements about this play were not sensitive to this fact.”

The statement also highlights that it “has long been a champion of multiculturalism and diversity in the arts in London”.

However, it has been criticised by British East Asian actor Daniel York.

Writing in response on Facebook, he said: “You have elected, in your wisdom, to produce Howard’s play, set in China with characters with Chinese names, but who apparently aren’t Chinese, with white Caucasian actors. But China is real. Chinese people are real. If you wanted to be ‘not real’ why not invent a fictional world?”

He added: “The question we keep asking is, would you do the same and call the country Africa or India? I’m tempted to think not.”

York said he would be protesting on the play’s opening night in January and added: “As artists of colour we have no choice. Because your ‘artistic freedom’ is our erasure.”

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