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'Romeo & Juliet' producers slam racial abuse directed at its Juliet

The production set for London's West End in May will star Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers.
'Romeo & Juliet' producers slam racial abuse directed at its Juliet
Posted at 7:33 PM, Apr 09, 2024

The theater company bringing "Romeo & Juliet" to London's West End is decrying the "barrage of deplorable racial abuse" one of its stars has experienced since the cast was announced.

"This must stop," The Jamie Lloyd Company said in an Instagram post. "We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment."

The statement didn't indicate which member of its cast was receiving the hateful response, but it's assumed to be about Francesca Amewudah-Rivers. 

Less than two weeks ago, the actress was announced as the production's Juliet, starring opposite Tom Holland as Romeo. Her comments section and that of the "Romeo & Juliet" Instagram page soon became full of vicious, racist remarks, and the option to respond has since been turned off on many posts.

It's a story we've seen before: Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" drew questions, though it now draws praise, for casting diverse actors to play White historical figures. Halle Bailey was subject to a slew of hate when she was cast as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." Even Holland's girlfriend, Zendaya, initially saw vitriol when she was cast as MJ opposite Holland's Peter Parker in the new "Spider-Man" films, where the two met.

As for Amewudah-Rivers' case, The Jamie Lloyd Company is making clear it will "continue to support and protect everyone in our company at all costs. Any abuse will not be tolerated and will be reported."

"Bullying and harassment have no place online, in our industry or in our wider communities," the company said in its statement. "Our rehearsal room is full of joy, compassion and kindness. We celebrate the extraordinary talent of our incredible collaborators."

This marks Holland's first stage run since he starred in "Billy Elliot: The Musical" as a child, and although this is her West End debut — which is considered the Broadway of London — Amewudah-Rivers has multiple other theater credits, including Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and "Othello."

The diverse cast also includes Freema Agyeman, Michael Balogun, Tomiwa Edun, Mia Jerome, Daniel Quinn-Toye, Ray Sesay, Nima Taleghani, Joshua-Alexander Williams, Callum Heinrich and Kody Mortimer.

According to its website, the 12-week run of "Romeo & Juliet," which begins in May, has already sold out, but it says to "please keep checking. We hope to have more news for you soon." Reports have circulated that it will transfer to New York's Broadway once it finishes its London run.

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