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‘Slave Play’ Author Has Message For UK Prime Minister: “Kick Rocks” read full article at

Special “Black Out” performances of Jeremy O. Harris‘ stage production Slave Play were well-received by the Broadway community in 2019 when producers of the controversial, acclaimed and emotionally complex play about race relations announced that they would set aside a relatively few performances to invite all-Black audiences, an effort to welcome a group traditionally marginalized or even excluded by Broadway.

The Black Out Nights promotion was intended to both expose Broadway theater to a community that may not have been in the habit of attending, and to allow Black audiences to experience, as a community, the thorny-issued satire.

But when a similar plan was announced for the upcoming West End production – starring, among others, Kit Harington – the promotion met with resistance from some quarters, most notably from the UK Prime Minister himself.

In a recent BBC report, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak‘s official spokesman said the PM had read media reports about the plan, described as featuring performances “free from the white gaze,” and found the matter “concerning.”

“The prime minister,” the spokesman said, “is a big supporter of the arts and he believes that the arts should be inclusive and open to everyone, particularly where those arts venues are in receipt of public funding. Restricting audiences on the basis of race would be wrong and divisive.”

The Prime Minister’s take is not sitting well with the playwright. In an interview with the BBC, Harris explained the concept behind the Black Out Nights, noting, “this is a night that we are specifically inviting black people to fill up the space, to feel safe with a lot of other black people in a place where they often do not feel safe.

“I think that one of the things that we have to remember is that people have to be radically invited into a space to know that they belong there,” he continued. “In most places in the West, poor people and Black people have been told that they do not belong inside of the theatre….As someone who wants and yearns for Black and brown people to be in the theatre, who comes from a working class environment, and so wants people who do not make over six-figures a year to feel like theatre is a place for them, it is a necessity to radically invite them in with initiatives that say ‘you’re invited. Specifically you’.”

Harris was blunter in a long, multi-part post on social media last night, telling the PM and others like him: “GROW UP!”

Harris began his X/Twitter post last night by writing, “In a slight rage over the moral panic that a certain aspect of the British public have frothed up around Black Out Nights, two nights out of over a hundred that have seen audiences members of all race in attendance over the last four years since its inception on Broadway.

“To know that your prime minister was called upon to discuss this weeks after he said he wouldn’t endorse a ceasefire is inconceivable.


Harris then goes on to note that the Black Out Nights in “NYC, LA, and London (yes already happened in London!)” were met with acclaim. “And you didn’t notice. Bc you don’t care.”

“The portion of the population making this a moment of some sort of moral outrage are the same portion who barely engage with culture because to engage in it would challenge your anxious attachment to a past you never experienced but idealize,” Harris writes. “I make my work for the now and people of it. People who want to see the audience around them look like the people in their neighborhood or from their tube ride.

“That only happens with things like Black Out Nights, 1 pound ticket offers, and direct communication w young ppl.

“If this upsets you? Kick rocks.”

Slave Play, directed by Robert O’Hara, begins performances June 29 at the West End’s Noël Coward Theatre, running through Sept. 21.

The conceit of the satire is that a number of interracial couples, both gay and straight, are taking part in a new type of relationship therapy called “Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy,” a (fictional) technique that, among other things, uses re-enactments of racist Old South scenarios to examine and hopefully reinvigorate the relationships.

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