EXCLUSIVE: Royal Court ‘brushed off hate warnings last year’

Dialect coach says she raised concerns over ‘Jewish’ name in play 18 months before scandal broke


The Royal Court theatre was warned 18 months ago that it was showcasing antisemitic sterotypes but brushed off the concerns, a whistleblower has told the JC in explosive new allegations.

Kara Tsiaperas, a dialect coach working on controversial play Rare Earth Mettle, said she had asked the director, Hamish Pirie, why the greedy villain ‘Hershel Fink’ had been written as a Jewish character in a meeting as long ago as 4 March, 2020.

Ms Tsiaperas, 53, who is not Jewish, asked Mr Pirie if the character was modelled on Larry Fink, the Jewish founder of investment giant BlackRock, she said.

Mr Pirie dismissed her concerns, she alleged, insisting that the character was primarily based on Elon Musk, who is not Jewish.

She says she was left suffering sleeplessness and anxiety as she worried about the clear antisemitic tropes in the play. Eventually, she declined to work on the production, though she did not communicate her true reasons for leaving the show to the theatre.

The scandal did not come to public attention until 5 November this year, when Jewish theatremakers, including director Adam Lenson, raised concerns themselves, finally prompting the theatre to apologise for “unconscious bias”.

Two of the theatre’s corporate backers have since withdrawn their funding in the wake of the row.

The whistleblower also shared her misgivings with the actor due to play Fink, Arthur Darvill, in a further meeting on 13 March 2020, she said.

She asked Mr Darvill how the character’s apparent Jewishness had informed his performance, she added. Speaking to the JC, she recalled that Mr Darvill was “visibly surprised” and replied that the character was not meant to be Jewish.

The whistleblower said that she told the actor: “Well, if he’s called Hershel Fink, your audience will perceive him as Jewish.”

The Royal Court’s internal inquiry into the scandal has not even contacted Ms Tsiaperas to investigate how her complaints were ignored, she added, prompting her to speak out publicly.

Having worked on the production until the pandemic forced it to be postponed in March last year, she later refused to return, partly because her concerns about antisemitism had been ignored.

Ms Tsiaperas handed the JC WhatsApp messages that she had sent to a friend the day after her concerns were dismissed by Mr Pirie, confessing to have trouble sleeping. “I am afraid on many levels…

“I am afraid on many levels… What I am worried about is the lead American character is called Hershel Fink,” she wrote.

“I had to bring up that [this] is a Jewish name, which surprised the director.

“Hershel is a Hebrew and Yiddish name not in common usage. Fink is the last name of the owner of BlackRock. He is Jewish American… If it is not acknowledged that the character has a Jewish name, I see danger signs of accidental anti Semitism [sic].

“There is some carelessness going on. I will [lie] awake with anxiety.”

Her friend replied: “Even I bloody know Herschel [sic] Fink is a Jewish name. FFS.”

Last month, the Sunday Times reported that a young Jewish director had warned Mr Pirie about the Fink character in September 2021.

The theatre said this would form part of the internal investigation.

In response to the new allegations, the government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, John Mann, told the JC that he would boycott the Royal Court Theatre.

“I would not contemplate going to a Royal Court production, nor sponsoring in any way their productions, until they are prepared to face up to issues they have, and agree a way forward that gives confidence that they have learnt from this appalling episode,” he said.

In the tax year ending March 2020, the theatre received £2.3 million of government funding from Arts Council England.

In response to the JC’s allegations, the Royal Court provided a statement from Anthony Burton QC, chair of the theatre’s board.

He said: “We are very grateful to have had this important new information drawn to our attention.

“It will be explored thoroughly as part of the Board’s ongoing internal review.

“The plan is to have the conversations that are informing this process concluded by the end of January 2022, ready for it to be written up in February 2022.

“There cannot, for reasons you have kindly acknowledged, be further response until after this process is completed.”

Mr Pirie and Mr Darvill did not respond to requests for comment.

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