A simmering dispute between actress Tracy-Ann Oberman and playwright Diane Samuels broke dramatically into the open this week, when Ms Samuels spoke out against the former EastEnders star for appearing to claim sole authorship of a play to which they have joint credits. Ms Oberman in turn consulted her lawyers when the JC put Ms Samuels’s concerns to her.
The women are named as co-writers of a version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, re-named 3 Sisters on Hope Street, staged earlier this year at London’s Hampstead Theatre.
But Ms Samuels has now broken her silence on Ms Oberman after the actress was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek last week. Ms Oberman was introduced as author of the play and allowed this to go unchallenged, failing to mention Ms Samuels.
Ms Samuels told the JC: “I have taken a back seat for a while. Tracy’s done tele-vision and newspapers and I’ve just stood back and let it happen. I’ve seen Tracy on television talking about how she wrote 3 Sisters, and I’ve kept my mouth closed for months. I just can’t let that continue any longer. So this is, finally, a response to Midweek, but in a context of quite a lot of times when a kind of perspective has been expressed which I felt was not accurate.”
Midweek presenter Hardeep Singh Kohli introduced Ms Oberman as the person “who wrote an adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters”.
Ms Oberman did not challenge him. Later in the show, when asked about working with Amy Rosenthal, in whose comedy On the Rocks she is now acting, she said: “Around the time when I was writing 3 Sisters, Amy was working on this play and we used to go for long walks and talk about how our scripts were doing.”
The actress also spoke about her new-found respect for writers as “very, very important people”.
But Ms Samuels said this week she did not regard the piece as co-written. “There is a co-credit. Tracy made a verbal contribution to the play. I don’t feel it was co-written and I never will. I regard her as an actress, who creatively collaborated with me. And when I hear she says on the radio that she has great respect for writers now she’s written something, I almost fell off my seat.”
She added: “I’m the primary author of the piece. And Tracy claims to have written the piece. She didn’t write a word of the first draft.”
Creative tensions have previously erupted between the two. In January, the JC reported a dispute over writing credits after the duo were reluctant to cooperate in publicising the play.
After Ms Oberman was asked to comment on her Midweek interview, the JC was contacted three times by her lawyers, demanding a transcript of Ms Samuels’s comments. It was not provided.
In a statement, Ms Oberman said: “3 Sisters on Hope Street is a co-written piece and any misunderstanding would be unfortunate and not intended by any parties involved on Midweek. I am incredibly proud of the piece and thoroughly enjoyed the creative process that went into producing it.”
Introduced by Hardeep Singh Kohli as the person “who wrote an adaptation of Three Sisters”, Oberman made no comment. Talking about working with Amy Rosenthal, she said: “Around the time when I was writing 3 Sisters, Amy was working on her play and we used to… talk about how our scripts were doing and the nature of playwriting.”
Kohli: “You have written an adaptation of Three Sisters, which was a big success.”
Kohli: “Has becoming a writer changed your appreciation of scripts as an actor?”
Oberman: “Very much so… I have a lot more respect for writers. I think the writers are very, very important people…”