Famed UK Theater Was Warned Character Was an Antisemitic Stereotype, Took No Action
The Royal Court has already apologized twice after accusations of antisemitism surrounding the play “Rare Earth Mettle.” Authored by British playwright Al Smith, it was set to feature a fictional Silicon Valley billionaire named Hershel Fink who wants to “save the world” by building affordable electric cars.
A Thursday statement issued by the Royal Court said, “On 8th November the leadership of the Royal Court was informed that the name [Hershel Fink] had been raised by a Jewish director in a workshop discussion held as part of the series Directors: Working on New Plays in September 2021.”
“We are in conversations with this director as we hold ourselves accountable for why this was not taken further, nor passed on to the writer,” the Theatre said. “This specific event will form part of the Board’s internal review.”
Three sources confirmed to Sunday Times the paper that a “young Jewish director” had spoken with the play’s director and associate director of the Theatre, Hamish Pirie, and said that the character was an antisemitic stereotype, only compounded by the stereotypical name he had been given. Royal Court took no action at the time.
One Jewish director also claimed to the Times that there was an atmosphere of antisemitism at the Theatre linked to to its strong support for former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
“Prominent figures in the arts were extremely vocal of their support of the Labour Party under Corbyn,” the director said. “This made it fundamentally uncomfortable to be Jewish in theater because calling out Corbynite antisemitism can sound dangerously like saying you were a Tory.”
Ironically, the Times noted that the Hershel Fink character was originally written to be Mexican, but this was changed due to concerns of racism accusations.
After receiving angry complaints about the Fink character, Royal Court said Smith had renamed the character Henry Finn and called the incident “an example of unconscious bias and we will reflect deeply on how this has happened in the coming days. We and the writer are deeply sorry for the harm caused.”
In a second statement on its website, Royal Court said it “apologizes unreservedly for this situation. It was a mistake, it shouldn’t have happened, and we are sorry it did.”
“We stand in solidarity with our Jewish staff, artists, audiences and friends and are grateful to those who got in touch to communicate that the character named Hershel Fink was perpetuating an antisemitic stereotype,” it said.