Entertainment & Arts

Homegrown: Scrapping radicalisation play 'shuts down' debate

Homegrown Image copyright NYT

Figures from the arts world have called on the National Youth Theatre to reveal why it cancelled a controversial play exploring the radicalisation of young people, in a letter to The Times.

Homegrown was scrapped earlier this month 10 days before its opening night.

Signatories including Simon Callow and Anish Kapoor said the decision "serves only to shut down conversation".

The play's creators said voices had been "silenced", but the NYT said the play failed to meet standards.

Director Nadia Latif and playwright Omar El-Khairy said earlier this month that they were given no prior warning about the cancellation of the play, which was inspired by three London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria to join Islamic State.

Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum went missing in February.

Image caption The decision is a troubling one for freedom of expression, artists including actor Simon Callow wrote

"This show was about having an intelligent conversation around an issue that has hysteria attached, and instead voices have been silenced with no explanation and without the content ever being seen because of this landscape of fear that we live in," they said.

In letter published on Saturday signatories, who also included Sir David Hare, Young Vic artistic director David Lan and Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, said the cancellation "is a troubling moment for British theatre and freedom of expression".

"We fear that government policy in response to extremism may be creating a culture of caution in the arts," they add.

'Deeply concerned'

The signatories say they are "deeply concerned" by claims the theatre may have been put under pressure to cancel the performance.

They conclude: "We urge the NYT to give a full account of what led to the decision, and hope that a way can be found to stage it so that the young voices involved can be heard and the production can be judged on its merits."

In June, the production was forced to move from the first school it was scheduled to play in - less than a mile away from the Bethnal Green school in east London attended by the missing schoolgirls - after Tower Hamlets council expressed concerns it would be "insensitive".

Latif and El-Khairy say they were told police wanted to view the final script and considered putting plain clothed officers in the audience.

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