A Sunday Times listing previewing a TV broadcast of a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Macbeth has been called out by the theatre company for its “unacceptable and abhorrent” wording.
The listing was published in the newspaper’s culture section highlighting a broadcast of its 2018 production of Macbeth on BBC4, which followed a transmission of the RSC’s Romeo and Juliet the previous week.
Previewing the programme, it said Macbeth was “less garishly diverse” than 2018’s Romeo and Juliet, which featured Bally Gill as Romeo and Karen Fishwick as Juliet. The cast also featured Andrew French as Friar Laurence and Raphael Sowole as Tybalt. Macbeth starred Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack.
The listing went on to say “notable features” of the production included a “lack of Scottish accents”.
Responding, the RSC said on Twitter: “We are calling out the unacceptable and abhorrent phrase used in today’s Sunday Times listings around our productions of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. It devalues the work of RSC artists and we will be formally responding to [critic] John Dugdale and [editor] Emma Tucker.”
In an updated statement, it said it was "shocked and appalled" and added: "Such deliberate and offensive use of language demonstrates clear prejudice and devalues people, in this case specifically devaluing the work of RSC artists."
It continued: "Our purpose at the RSC is to ensure that Shakespeare is for everyone and we aim to reflect the nation’s talent in all its diversity, such that the audiences which we serve are all able to recognise themselves on stage. Hamlet says that the purpose of playing is to hold “the mirror up to nature”. We believe that when you watch these great plays, you should see yourself reflected in what you see and that the most effective productions are those that celebrate the widest range of skills and talents.”
Deputy artistic director Erica Whyman also took to Twitter to condemn the listing, calling it “completely unacceptable”.
This is completely unacceptable. I am so angry. How is it possible to even to allow this thought to form, in this week of all weeks? I will be writing to Mr Dugdale and his editor. t.co/7k79kKVp48— Erica Whyman (@EricaWhyman)
The listing follows a review in 2018, by then Daily Mail critic Quentin Letts, who suggested actor Leo Wringer had only been cast in a production of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich because he is black, writing: “The RSC’s clunking approach to politically correct casting has again weakened its stage product.”
A spokeswoman for the Sunday Times said: "We are sorry that an inappropriate reference appeared in our review of Macbeth. It has been removed from our online edition."