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‘Homophobia’ criticisms prompt Yvonne Arnaud Theatre U-turn

The Yvonne Arnaud at night, glittering by the River Wey The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre at night
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Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre has backtracked on plans to issue an age advisory on a gender-swapped production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream after being accused of homophobia.

The venue’s youth theatre is staging a production of the Shakespeare play in which Lysander is played by a girl. The gender-swap means the character of Lysander has same-sex relationships in the production.

The theatre said it wanted the casting to be “more reflective of 2017 society” and aimed to “welcome all sexual orientations”. However, it gave the production a 16-plus age restriction, saying it wanted to give teachers and guardians “an opportunity to make an informed decision before purchasing tickets for children”.

It said three schools had cancelled their bookings because students had not yet covered same-sex relationships in personal, social and health education lessons.

The decision initially garnered criticisms on social media, with some labelling the venue’s actions as “homophobic” and “incredibly stupid”.

The theatre has since changed its initial decision and confirmed it had removed the age advisory from the production.

“Under the advice of our safeguarding officer, we were advised that including an age advisory was the appropriate action to take if we wished to act in accordance with current guidelines in safeguarding and curriculum,” a statement said.

It added: “Once we were made aware that the age advisory had caused offence, we were very concerned that our actions had been interpreted in this way, and as such we sought further advice and the decision was made to remove this advisory.”