A letter in support of Francesca Amewudah-Rivers is signed by 800 Black performers

A letter in support of Francesca Amewudah-Rivers is signed by 800 Black performers

A letter in support of Francesca Amewudah-Rivers is signed by 800 Black performers

A letter of support for Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, who is appearing opposite Tom Holland in the Jamie Lloyd Company’s Romeo and Juliet, was signed by eight hundred Black performers.

The play is being performed at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London from May 11 to August 3. Since the casting was made public, Amewudah-Rivers, who is slated to play Juliet in the play opposite Holland as Romeo, has been subjected to a barrage of criticism on the internet.

The letter, coordinated by Susan Wokoma (Taskmaster, Enola Holmes) and playwright Somalia Nonyé Seaton (Fall of the Kingdom, Rise of the Footsoldier), stated: “For a casting announcement of a play to ignite such twisted ugly abuse is truly embarrassing for those so empty and barren in their own lives that they must meddle in hateful abuse.” says. “Black performers, especially women, are far too frequently abandoned to deal with the fury of online criticism following their independent employment.

 

Signees of the letter, include Lashana Lynch (The Woman King), Lolly Adefope (Shrill), and Sheila Atim (Underground Railroad). It follows a statement from the Jamie Lloyd Company, which did not reference Amewudah-Rivers by name. “Following the announcement of our Romeo & Juliet cast, there has been a barrage of deplorable racial abuse online directed toward a member of our company,” the statement read. “This must stop.”

But then what followed was a too familiar horror that many of us visible Black dark skinned performers have experienced.

The racist and misogynistic abuse directed at such a sweet soul has been too much to bear. For a casting announcement of a play to ignite such twisted ugly abuse is truly embarrassing for those so empty and barren in their own lives that they must meddle in hateful abuse.”

Lynch is best known for her roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films (MCU) as well as for playing MI6 agent Nomi in the 2021 James Bond film No Time to Die. Atim is a double Olivier award-winning Ugandan-British actor, singer, composer and playwright who has appeared in a number of stage and TV shows, while Jean-Baptiste came to prominence following her role in the 1996 film Secrets & Lies, for which she received Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta nominations.

Lashana Lynch
Lashana Lynch is among the 833 signatories of the letter, which said that Black women too often have to deal with racial attacks. Photograph: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The signatories welcomed the theatre company’s statement and said they hoped it would “extend to committed emotional support for Francesca on her journey with the production”.

They added: “Too many times theatre companies, broadcasters, producers and streamers have failed to offer any help or support when their Black artists face racist or misogynistic abuse. Reporting is too often left on the shoulders of the abused, who are also then expected to promote said show.

“We want to send a clear message to Francesca and all Black women performers who face this kind of abuse – we see you. We see the art you manage to produce with not only the pressures that your white colleagues face but with the added traumatic hurdle of misogynoir. We are so excited to watch you shine.”

Romeo & Juliet runs at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 11 May to 3 August and marks Amewudah Rivers’ West End debut. The actor has previously starred in Shakespeare plays Macbeth and Othello as well as Sophocles tragedy Antigone across London theatres. She also starred in two seasons of the Bad Education on BBC.

The play will also be the Spider-Man star Holland’s first big theatre role since his debut in Billy Elliot: the Musical.

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