Following a wave of criticism over Music Theatre Wales’ all-white cast, London’s Hackney Empire venue has cancelled its premiere of “The Golden Dragon,” originally set for October 31, 2017.
The theatre issued a statement on Thursday, saying: “The debate aroused by the non-Asian casting in The Golden Dragon compromises the Empire’s commitment and position as a champion of diversity and accessibility across the theatre industry, and therefore the decision has been taken to withdraw the forthcoming performance on 31 October… Music Theatre Wales were renting the theatre for this production and Hackney Empire has not been involved in any part of the production or casting process.”
Kumiko Mendl, Yellow Earth Theatre’s artistic director, has expressed her support for Hackney Empire’s decision, saying, “We’ve had a number of incidents over the years and this is yet another one. Obviously this is the opera world, which is notoriously un-diverse, but this play would have been a fantastic opportunity for them to go out and find diverse opera singers, especially east Asian opera singers. It doesn’t make sense that it’s an all-Caucasian cast, particularly when it is about nationalities, ethnicities and the immigrant experience. You can’t say that the immigrant experience is purely just a white experience. That doesn’t make sense at all.”
In response to the London cancellation, Music Theatre Wales has stated, “We should have reflected more deeply on the implications it had for the kind of production we made. These errors of judgment were ours alone. Our exceptional performers are not to blame.”
The company added, “This is a transformative experience for the company and one from which we are determined to learn. We are already in the process of meeting with a number of professionals and practitioners who wrote to us to raise their concerns, and we will be listening to them as we engage in a thorough review of our approach to equal opportunities and diversity: in our programming, in our casting and across all our activities as a company. We are committed to incorporating this learning into everything we do.”
It is unclear if the other venues set for Music Theatre Wales’ national tour, such as those in Bangor, Aldeburgh, and Basingstoke, will follow suit in canceling “The Golden Dragon.”