A play set in Ancient Egypt was cancelled because the cast was too white

There were fears it would be ‘white-washing’

A play which showed two people from different countries falling in love in Ancient Egypt has been cancelled by Music Theatre Bristol, after complaints that white people would be guilty of cultural appropriation if they played the characters.

The upcoming production of Aida was voted in by members of the company, however the decision has been made that it will not be presented to the general public. Music Theatre Bristol (MTB) initially said: “The show set in Ancient Egypt is about a war between two countries and, as a result of the enslavement of one country, the two lovers of the story cannot be together due to their responsibilities to their countries as different nationalities.”

MTB added: “It is a great shame that we have had to cancel this show as of course we would not want to cause offence in any way as that was never our intention. Our intention was to tell this story, one which, surely is better heard than not performed.”

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Clearly Music Theatre Bristol were and are keen to ensure that all their productions are both respectful and representative of the cultures that feature in their production which is why they felt that in the wake of this criticism it was not appropriate for them to continue with Aida, despite popular demand.

Although it was rumoured that Bristol SU were the ones who complained over the racial issues that a student production of the play would cause, it has now been revealed that students from within Drama society and the MTB raised the issue first. She said: “It’s quite simple really, if you are going to put on a production set in a particular place with a particulr cultural context, then you need to reflect that with the ethnicity of actors.

“Unless you’re going to respect how the cast SHOULD BE then I think it’s stupid to put on this show.”

What started as an angry status on Facebook about whitewashing a play which stars a “Nubian Princess” from one student soon snowballed into mass criticism as fellow students in Drama Society and ethnically linked societies in Bristol joined the chorus of criticism.

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English literature student and MTB member Benjie Beer said: “The cancelling of Aida is a great shame both for us in Bristol and for the people who potentially could have been offended by it. The point of telling stories set in different cultures is to show the common humanity beneath all humanity; that is to say, it’s anti-racist. The assumptions the anti-cultural appropriation lobby make about culture being static, about there being a hierarchy of inherently aggressive and inherently victimised cultures and about culture being the ‘property’ of specific people is not only intellectually defunct, but uncompassionate and oppressive. I hope this fanaticism is a passing phase because it’s ultimately no good for anyone.”

While another student spokesman from MTB who wished to remain anonymous said: “The criticism was necessary because the expected whitewashing of the musical was not only insensitive but would have been potentially detrimental to the society if the production had gone ahead.”

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