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Aladdin pantomime changes character names after racism accusation

Bedworth Civic Hall. Photo: Flickr/pikerslanefarm
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A theatre in Warwickshire has changed the names of two characters in a production of Aladdin after the roles were accused of being racist.

The roles in question – titled Chow Mein Slave of the Ring/Villager and PC Pong Ping – were advertised on Spotlight by Bedworth’s Civic Hall for its Christmas pantomime.

Actor and writer Maryam Hamidi called out the advert on Twitter, criticising it for being “racist” and “offensive”.

She added: “Panto season seems to consistently normalise casual racism for the next generation. Panto after all is most kids’ first experience of theatre, particularly in some smaller towns/cities.”

The Stage understands that Spotlight removed the advert and contacted the casting director for the production once it was made aware of a complaint, which led the Civic Hall to change the names on the advert and relist it on Spotlight.

Others to criticise the advert included actor Lucy Sheen, who tweeted in response to the posting: “And still there are people within this industry who try to silence [British East Asian artists] by telling us that such #racism #prejudice and #bigotry don’t exit and we’re #paranoid or #gotchips on our shoulders because we didn’t get “the job”. When is this going to end?”

Director Andrew Keates added: “How can you justify such a spectacularly racist and hurtful character? I pity any actor that auditions, let alone [British East Asian] families who have to see it and find the ‘silliness’ in it.”

A statement from Bedworth’s Civic Hall said: “It has been brought to the attention of the production team of Aladdin that character names may have caused unintentional offence in a Spotlight cast profiling.

“We apologise for any distress caused. They have been changed with immediate effect.”

General manager Tim Norton added: “I hope that this shows how seriously we take complaints and concerns and that they are dealt with promptly and effectively.

“Once again, as director/producer of the Civic Hall Pantomime Company I apologise most sincerely for any unintentional offence.”

Norton added that the Civic Hall takes full responsibility for the advert and that casting director Benjamin Newsome had “no input” into the wording of the roles.

A spokesman for Spotlight said: “We did have it removed as soon as we were made aware. One of our key account managers then called the casting director to explain how this could cause offence.

“They had mentioned that this was the traditional casting breakdown used for Aladdin but agreed the characters’ names needed updating. They have now since sent out an amendment with nondescript roles.”

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