London's Royal Court Theatre apologies over anti-Semitic character

Staff at London’s Royal Court theatre get anti-Semitism training following controversy over play that included a Silicon Valley billionaire called Hershel Fink – after admitting it perpetrated a ‘damaging’ Jewish stereotype

  • Sloane Square’s Royal Court Theatre revealed that staff will undertake training in anti-Semitism and ‘unconscious bias’ after the controversy in November  
  • Found that name and character of Hershel Fink, who featured in the play Rare Earth Mettle, ‘could be seen as an antisemitic trope’ 
  • Character’s name was later changed to Henry Finn, and this week, the theatre’s Chair said it apologised ‘unreservedly for the pain that has been caused’

A leading London theatre has said it has begun training staff in anti-Semitism after it included a character in a play that was accused of perpetuating Jewish stereotypes and ‘causing ideological harm’. 

The Royal Court theatre issued an apology and said employees would undergo ‘unconscious bias’ training following the controversy late last year, which saw a character named Hershel Fink, a Silicon Valley billionaire, feature in the new play Rare Earth Mettle by Al Smith.  

A review carried out by the theatre said the ‘name and aspects of the character’s personality could be seen as an antisemitic trope’. 

Before launching the investigation, the theatre changed the name of he character from Hershel Fink to Henry Finn. 

The Sloane Square theatre’s Chair, Anthony Burton, said this week: ‘The Royal Court Theatre apologises unreservedly for the pain that has been caused around the production of its play Rare Earth Mettle. 

Sloane Square’s Royal Court Theatre revealed this week that staff will undertake training in anti-Semitism and ‘unconscious bias’ after the controversy in November that saw the theatre accused of perpetuating Jewish stereotypes

The character of Hershel Fink (played by actor Arthur Darvill), who featured as a Silicon Valley billionaire in the play Rare Earth Mettle, ‘could be seen as an antisemitic trope’, admitted the theatre

The character’s name was changed to Henry Finn at the time the play was shown late last year, and this week, the theatre’s Chair, Anthony Burton, said it apologised ‘unreservedly for the pain that has been caused’ (a scene in the play featuring the character of Fink, far right)

‘This incident fell short of the Royal Court’s own high ambitions in terms of inclusivity and anti-racism. It is committed to learning from it and clear actions have been put in place including specialist training on antisemitism.’  

The play centres around a leading doctor who travels to Bolivia to solve the British mental health crisis and advance her career. She is joined there by Finn, a Silicon Valley billionaire who believes he can save the world building affordable electric cars. 

The character is not Jewish and there is no reference to him being Jewish in the play, the theatre said at the time.       

However, the Royal Court admitted the original naming of the character was an example of ‘unconscious bias’ and launched an internal review.   

Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone said yesterday that the theatre ‘will now look to action the recommendations included within it alongside the ongoing work we have been doing internally and with members of the Jewish community, including our antisemitism training for staff and trustees which began last week.’   

Comedian, author and screenwriter David Baddiel criticised the Royal Court at the time the play was shown, writing on Twitter: ‘Apparently @royalcourt claim they didn’t realise ‘Hershel Fink’ was a Jewish name. Hmm. Somehow it just sounded so right for a world conquering billionaire.’

 The theatre in London’s West End admitted in November last year that the naming of the character was an example of ‘unconscious bias’

David Baddiel said ‘everything – particularly now and particularly about ethnicity – gets relentlessly discussed’ during the creation of play

 The comedian, screenwriter and author took to Twitter to share this thoughts on the move

He added: ‘I’ve written a play. Everything – particularly now and particularly about ethnicity – gets relentlessly discussed. Except as regards one ethnicity apparently. 

‘Anyway. To be fair @royalcourt have acknowledged their unconscious bias here and changed the name. It’s still a very instructive Jews Don’t Count episode.’

And theatre director Adam Lenson said: ‘So, Al Smith at The Royal Court has taken a character clearly based on Elon Musk and when fictionalising him has given him an obviously Jewish name. 

‘Casually making a Silicon Valley billionaire Jewish perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotypes and will cause ideological harm.’

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