An upcoming production of In The Woods at London's iconic Old Vic theatrehouse was abruptly cancelled last week with little details given. Today, it has been revealed that the show was axed following complaints from staff over the director's past comments on trans-related issues.
The now-unplatformed show was set to be directed by Terry Gilliam, a former member of the Monty Python comedy troupe. After the show began its initial stages of arrangement in 2020, members of the Old Vic staff allegedly held a flash meeting to express discontent with Gilliam's involvement due to his past comments on social justice-related issues, including trans rights and representation in comedy. Most of the comments were made years ago.
Gilliam first sparked controversy in 2018 when he lashed out against a comment made by BBC comedy commissioner Shane Allen, who wrote off Monty Python as unrepresentative of British comedy, and called for more diversity in the industry.
"If you’re going to assemble a team now, it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes." Allen is quoted as saying, "It’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world.”
The comments rubbed John Cleese and Terry Gilliam the wrong way. At a subsequent press conference, Gilliam stated "It made me cry: the idea that ... no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show. Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented... this is bullshit. I no longer want to be a white male, I don’t want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world: I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian... My name is Loretta and I’m a BLT – a black lesbian in transition."
He went on to state, “[Allen’s] statement made me so angry, all of us so angry. Comedy is not assembled – it’s not like putting together a boy band where you put together one of this, one of that everyone is represented."
In 2020, Gilliam reiterated his stance, noting that he found political correctness in Hollywood casting "ridiculous." He noted that there was pressure on filmmakers to not cast actors unless they were fully representative of the role they were playing.
"In Hollywood, there's a lot of pressure if you're going to have a transgender character, then you have to have a transgender actor - it's ridiculous." Gilliam said during an interview, largely in defense of Afro-Latina actress Zoe Saldana, who had apologized after being cast as legendary soul singer Nina Simone.
Gilliam's involvement at the Old Vic allegedly led at least one staff member to fully resign in outrage, but the theatre has refused to comment on this publicly.
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