Aladdin provides a fitting introduction for kids to theatre and fosters another generation of racism where my future kids get addressed as the “Chow Mein slave” (‘Panto changes character names amid racism accusation ’).
The problem stems from within the first inception of a project. It needs to be accounted for then and there, not when a theatre gets called out. It seems gatekeepers and theatres aren’t sorry for causing offence, just sorry they got caught.
Is it really racist? It’s pantomime for heaven’s sake. Is Baron Hardup offensive to poor people? Is Widow Twanky offensive to single parents? Are the Ugly Sisters body-shaming?
What kind of world are these politically correct zealots advocating? A grey, bleak, Orwellian nightmare where no one can tell a joke or put on a panto for fear of offending someone?
You can’t compare racism to class issues. This ‘what-about-us-ism’ is a veiled excuse to make racism an acceptable form of comedy. If someone doesn’t like being offended due to their race being mocked that should be the end of the argument.
I do find Aladdin as a pantomime an interesting entity. A lot of anger has been caused in theatre by ‘yellowfacing’ without a valid artistic reason and yet Aladdin is still going with (usually) predominantly non-Asian performers. I’d say that was more problematic than some tongue-in-cheek character names.
As someone from mixed-race background with Chinese ancestry, I find this silly politically correct policing offensive and I take no offence from the idea of these traditional roles being cast as Chinese. I say this as someone who experienced racial slurs as a kid in the city of Salford and being told “go back to your own country”.
Salvador Ung Hayworth
“Unintentional” is a poor and sloppy apology. The theatre read and wrote the script before issuing the casting breakdown. You don’t see many pantos with characters called “Colonial Charlie” or “Murdering Mountbatten”. Is it racist? Oh yes it is.
Calling an East Asian character “Chow Mein” anything is reprehensible playground bullying and has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘traditional’ panto.
Love him or hate him, Jim Davidson  always gives his audiences what they expect, and over the years I’ve become quite adept at noticing the shifts in audience make-up that can change the route a particular show is going to take.
Jim is a master of using audiences’ bad behaviour to his advantage, but the actions of one audience member recently stopped him dead. His shows don’t actually ‘start’ in the usual sense, but he tends to appear on stage, move right to the edge and inspect the front row or two. After starting stage left, he walked across and stopped, open-mouthed, before asking: “Is that a dog? You’ve brought a dog into the theatre.”
Clearly the owner – a respectable, middle-aged lady – seemed like she might present some challenges, so the front-of-house staff decided not to turn her and the dog away. It was just unfortunate that she happened to be on the front row. Jim was (amazingly, in the circumstances), very nice to her.
Fifteen minutes later, a party of soldiers arrived and decided to become part of the show too – from Row J. This was another tricky situation because Jim is chief executive of the Charity Care After Combat, so it was hardly appropriate to mock them either.
What really surprised me was the make-up of the audience – not remotely the kind of people who you might expect to turn up for Jethro, Roy Chubby Brown and other ‘old-fashioned’ comedians. The content of the show was the same as it has always been. In fact, there was probably more of the old pre-PC Jim, but among the large audience, there was a real mix of age, sex and class.
Following the outcry this week that characters such as Ping-Pong the Chinese Policeman in Aladdin are racist, maybe this shows that ordinary people are fighting back and laughing with the ‘isms’ and not laughing at them, because there is a very big difference.
Artists’ day jobs
I’m not ashamed of my day job, I’m more frustrated with it (‘You can be a waiter and an artist’, Lyn Gardner, Opinion, July 12).
We take day jobs to support ourselves and whatever our various passions might be. But, after losing 10 hours a day to this paying job and its commute, we might have only four or five hours a day to work on the projects we really want to focus on. After such a long and often stressful day of work and commuting, we’re too tired to do much of anything in those hours that are free.
The fact is, it’s incredibly difficult to dedicate yourself to a work if the bulk of your day is taken up with other things. So far, I’ve written three plays, and the first two were written while I was unemployed.
Quotes of the week
“Somebody tweeted me telling me I was shit last week and then waited half an hour for my autograph this evening. And I thought I was odd.” – Matt Lucas (Twitter)
“Gang, I’m finally at #FunHome and there’s a woman whose mates have brought her here for her coming out party and maybe humans aren’t terrible.” – Francesca Peschier (Twitter)
“My biggest frustration with theatre is who am I speaking to, what is the audience? Sometimes you’re like: ‘I’ll write a piece for work,’ but… why, if the right people won’t see it?” – Playwright Vinay Patel (Guardian)
“It’s the first time in my career as a playwright that I have not been compared in reviews favourably or disfavourably to a male playwright. It has taken till I’m 50 to be afforded the honour of having my own voice. How do we women writers find our place in the theatrical canon?” – Playwright Charlotte Jones (Twitter)
“[Acting is] an odd job and I worry and wonder if I’m doing the right thing, but I don’t walk around with a part consuming me. I can turn it off and on and I don’t need to get myself in a state.” – Actor Matthew Macfadyen (Sunday Times)
“Christine Baranski has a great voice. There are also actors who don’t need to sing so much. Mostly, [the cast] sing very well. Mostly.” – Bjorn Ulvaeus on Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Guardian)
“Both form and content would not have been able to flourish and diversify in the way they have in the latter half of the 20th century and the first two decades of this one, had censorship of theatre not been abolished. The view from the stalls would be an incredibly narrow one, and theatre certainly wouldn’t sit where it currently does: right at the centre of the political, social and cultural conversation.” – National Theatre director Rufus Norris (Evening Standard)
“Because that’s what you do in theatre, you drink. But I was very difficult to work with, as well, because I was usually hungover… From my own life, I still cannot believe that my life is what it is because I should have died in Wales, drunk or something like that.” – Actor Anthony Hopkins (BBC Online)
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