United Kingdom: University cancels musical due to race row

12 October 2016

A theatre at the University of Bristol cancelled all showings of its student production of musical ‘Aida’ due to protests over potential “cultural appropriation” that white students would be cast in the lead roles of ancient Egyptians and slaves, reported The Telegraph on 4 October 2016.

The musical, written by Elton John and Tim Rice as an adaptation of Verdi’s opera ‘Aida’, focuses on the forbidden love story between a captured Nubian princess and an Egyptian captain.

Social media complaints over the musical referred to the potential casting as “white washing”, likening it to Hollywood’s casting of actress Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film ‘Cleopatra’.

In a statement, the Music Theatre Bristol (MTB) said:

To all our MTB members, it is with great sadness that we are announcing the cancellation of “Aida” in this year’s MTB show calendar. This show that was voted in by our members has since cause controversy in terms of racial diversity. To those who had concerns on this we would like to say, the show set in Ancient Egypt is about a war between two countries and as a result the enslavement of one country. The two lovers of the story cannot be together due to their responsibilities to their countries as different nationalities and this is reflected in the book, with no comment made on racial discrimination. 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, and that was certainly never our intention. Our intention was to tell this story, one which, surely is better heard than not performed at all.

Photo: Music Theatre Bristol Facebook page


» The Independent – 7 October 2016
A student production of Aida is the latest victim of the university thought police – but it won’t be the last

» Daily Mail – 5 October 2016
Race-row zealots force Verdi’s opera Aida to be cancelled because having white Bristol University students play its Ethiopian characters is ‘cultural appropriation’

» The Telegraph – 4 October 2016
Musical ‘Aida’ cancelled at Bristol University amid race row over ‘cultural appropriation’

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