Print Room: ‘Social media attack will not force a change in our artistic policy’

The Print Room at the Coronet. Photo: Marc Brenner
The Print Room at the Coronet. Photo: Marc Brenner
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West London venue the Print Room has criticised a “social media attack” that challenged its casting of a forthcoming play, claiming it is “not willing to change its artistic policy” in response to the complaints.

The venue was criticised at the end of last year for casting non-East Asian actors in a play set in China, called In the Depths of Dead Love by Howard Barker.

Campaigners lambasted the casting of white actors in roles with Chinese character names.

A protest against the casting decision is scheduled to coincide with the press night of the play on January 19.

However, in a letter that has been written by artistic director Anda Winters to friends of the venue, she states that the Ancient China setting of the play “is not intended to reflect any particular historical reality”.

“As the reference to China is contextual rather than literal, the Print Room and artistic team believe we should cast the best actors for the roles, independent of ethnic origin, which is what we have done,” she states.

She adds that the venue is “sorry for the apparent offence we inadvertently caused” and states the Print Room will be seeking to “learn how we can best communicate our artistic programme so as to avoid this sort of confusion in the future”.

“We are not willing, however, to change our artistic policy in response to a social media attack conducted, without consulting us, by people who appear not to have read the work and are therefore unable to consider the play in its artistic context,” she says.

She concludes the letter stating that the venue has to defend its “integrity” and the “freedom of expression that we work so hard to support”.

Director Andrew Keates is behind the protest on January 19. He described the letter as “misleading” and highlighted how industry bodies, including Equity, have condemned the theatre’s casting.

He said: “This response only illustrates the Print Room’s arrogance and lack of interest and passion in diverse and appropriate casting. The only good that can come from this is encouraging the bigger conversation about representing ethnic minorities in the arts and this response only fuels our need to protest on January 19 outside the Print Room."

He added: "Ancient China is not imaginary and neither will our condemnation and protest against the Print Room and this production be."

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