Idris Elba has labelled claims made against him and Kwame Kwei-Armah over the authorship of a play at the Manchester International Festival as “offensive and troubling”.
Two emerging writers, Sarah Henley and Tori Allen-Martin, claimed earlier this week that they had come up with the show first and said they had felt “bullied and silenced” after they sought credit for their work.
They said they had been commissioned to write the show in 2013 but were removed when Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic, came on board last year.
The show, called Tree, is premiering at Manchester International Festival ahead of a run at the Young Vic in London. It is directed by Kwei-Armah, who is listed as creator alongside Elba.
Kwei-Armah and Manchester International Festival have already responded to the accusations, and now Elba has published a statement on Twitter to coincide with the show’s opening today (July 4).
Elba said that Tree was workshopped with Henley and Allen-Martin, but in order to secure a commission “[they] all understood that [the project] had to take a new direction”.
He said: “I approached Kwame, alongside MIF, as a collaborator and theatre partner with Tori and Sarah to write. I thought this could be an incredible opportunity for Tori and Sarah to collaborate with MIF and Young Vic and hone their craft further and we wanted to provide the support they needed, they were excited at the prospect.
“As new ambitions started to be proposed as the jumping off point for development, Tori and Sarah decided they didn’t want to pursue [them] and declined to work any further on the project. This is not uncommon in the creative process.”
Elba said that Henley and Allen-Martin have been acknowledged in the foreword of the programme for the show as they “were part of the original journey”.
He added: “We wanted to offer an opportunity to support these new writers while creating a piece of work of scale and to a director’s vision.
“The outcome is an accusation of plagiarism and discrimination. However frustrating this has been for all, we will continue to offer opportunities and to support the next generation of writers and talent.”
— Idris Elba (@idriselba) July 4, 2019