Black Actress Starring In “Romeo & Juliet” Facing ‘Barrage’ Of Racist Abuse Online

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After Francesca Amewudah-Rivers was cast opposite Tom Holland in West End’s upcoming “Romeo & Juliet” production, the Black actress has faced a “barrage of deplorable racial abuse.”

Since the casting announcement of Amewudah-Rivers, there have been a slew of hateful and “vitriolic comments about the actress’ appearance and race.” Internet trolls even “took to Amewudah-Rivers’ Instagram page to antagonize her. The bullying toward the Black actress was so bad that the official Romeo & Juliet Instagram page has turned off comments,” Us Weekly reports.

In response to the online harassment, the Jamie Lloyd Company, released a statement, “Following the announcement of our ‘Romeo & Juliet’ cast, there has been a barrage of deplorable racial abuse online directed towards a member of our company. This must stop.”

“We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment. We will continue to support and protect everyone in our company at all costs. Any abuse will not be tolerated and will be reported,” the producer’s statement continued. “Bullying and harassment have no place online, in our industry or in our wider communities. Our rehearsal room is full of joy, compassion and kindness. We celebrate the extraordinary talent of our incredible collaborators. The ‘Romeo & Juliet’ community will continue to rehearse with generosity and love, and focus on the creation of our production.”

The umbrage over Amewudah-Rivers playing Juliet can be attributed to the dual combination of racism and colorism. Tom Holland’s longtime partner Zendaya has been vocal about this issue. According to Teen Vogue, she said, “I am Hollywood’s, I guess you could say, acceptable version of a Black girl, and that needs to change. We’re vastly too beautiful and too interesting for me to be the only representation of that.”

In addition, this isn’t the first time a Black performer has faced criticism for a Shakespearean portrayal. When Denzel Washington was cast as Macbeth in Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, the Oscar-winning actor also encountered backlash.

“On the one hand, Shakespeare has long been regarded as “universal”- as having the unique ability to speak to concerns that all humans share,” said Dr. Dennis Austin Britton, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia in the English language department specializing in Shakespeare …”On the other hand, black people have often been barred from performing or writing about Shakespeare.

“Shakespeare himself knew his plays were not accurate reflections of history,” Britton added. “In my opinion, the historical accuracy argument thinly veils resistance to diversity and inclusion efforts—not just in Shakespeare performance, but more generally.”

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