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Major sponsors desert Royal Court theatre over anti-Semitic row

Major sponsors are ditching the Royal Court theatre in London after it became embroiled in a toxic anti-Semitism row.

Corporate backers are pulling funding from Britain’s most famous radical theatre after it gave a billionaire villain a Jewish name.

Leading law firms Kirkland & Ellis and Weil, Gotshal & Manges condemned the racism and said they would no longer worked with the Sloane Square venue.

Meanwhile the government’s anti-Semitism tsar Lord Mann called for anti-Semitism awareness training across the arts world starting with the Royal Court.

The Royal Court was forced to apologise last month and change the name of the character following a huge backlash over ‘perpetuating an anti-Semitic stereotype’.

Bosses said it would change Hershel Fink, a non-Jewish part featured in Rare Earth Mettle by Al Smith, to Henry Finn. 

Corporate backers are pulling funding from Britain’s most famous radical theatre after it gave a billionaire villain a Jewish name (pictured, the show)

Leading law firms Kirkland & Ellis and Weil, Gotshal & Manges condemned the racism and said they would no longer worked with the Sloane Square venue (pictured)

Leading law firms Kirkland & Ellis and Weil, Gotshal & Manges condemned the racism and said they would no longer worked with the Sloane Square venue (pictured)

But despite the move, Kirkland & Ellis and Weil, Gotshal & Manges told the BBC they were severing ties with the theatre.

Kirkland & Ellis said: ‘We condemn in the strongest possible terms any and all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism, and in light of the recent events, we were unable to continue our sponsorship.’

Weil, Gotshal & Manges added: ‘Weil strongly condemns any form of anti-Semitism or discrimination, whether conscious or unconscious, and we will be withdrawing our support for the Royal Court.’

The firm was founded by three Jewish businessmen – Frank Weil, Sylvan Gotshal and Horace Manges – in New York City in 1931.

Meanwhile Lord Mann told MailOnline: ‘I think that there needs be antisemitism awareness training for the arts world, starting with the Royal Court.

‘I wouldn’t contemplate ever going there unless and until they sort themselves out and I know others who feel the same.’

In the play Fink, who is the CEO of an electric car company that was compared to Tesla , is not Jewish and there is no reference to him being so in the show.

But the Royal Court admitted the naming of the character was an example of ‘unconscious bias’ and changed it.

The Royal Court was forced to apologise last month and change the name of the character following a huge backlash over 'perpetuating an anti-Semitic stereotype'

The Royal Court was forced to apologise last month and change the name of the character following a huge backlash over ‘perpetuating an anti-Semitic stereotype’

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 the Silicon Valley billionaire who believes he can save the world building affordable electric cars.

The theatre was savaged online by Jewish people and companies who said Hershel Fink was ‘obviously a Jewish name’.

Author David Baddiel wrote 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. 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.’

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.’

Interim Director of London’s Jewish Museum Frances Jeens added: ‘This image is a stereotype as it shows a Jewish person in a malevolent way, so it’s a racist depiction of a Jewish person – rich, controlling, in power.

‘These are deeply hurtful stereotypes that have existed for centuries and is something that is very hurtful to the Jewish community today.’

David Baddiel said 'everything - particularly now and particularly about ethnicity - gets relentlessly discussed' during the creation of play

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

 

The Royal Court had claimed in November they did not know Hershel Fink was a Jewish name.

But it later emerged the character’s name had been brought up as early as September.

The said in a statement: ‘On 8 November the leadership of the Royal Court was informed that the name 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 or passed on to the writer.’

The Royal Court’s artistic director Vicky Featherstone has repeatedly ducked requests for an interview.

The theatre is also sponsored by Aqua Financial Ltd, Cadogan, Colbert, Edwardian Hotels London, Kudos, Sloane Stanley, Bloomberg philanthropies, and Left Bank pictures which are yet to comment.

Sister and Auriens declined to comment.

The theatre in London's West End admitted the naming of the character was an example of 'unconscious bias' and it will be changed

 The theatre in London’s West End admitted the naming of the character was an example of ‘unconscious bias’ and it will be changed


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