Royal Court warned months ago that Hershel Fink character name was antisemitic

Concerns were raised weeks before eventual name change


Directors at the Royal Court theatre were warned in a workshop earlier this year that the choice of the name ‘Hershel Fink’ for a greedy billionaire  character risked causing offence to the Jewish community. 

According to an investigation in The Sunday Times, three sources confirmed that a young Jewish director raised concerns with associate Director Hamish Pirie. 

The young director pointed out to Mr. Pirie that the name was clearly of Jewish origin and as such might draw criticism as it had developed into an antisemitic trope.

However, the name of the character was not changed until nearly two months later when the name gained attention on social media. This outcry prompted the Royal Court to issue a statement saying they were immediately changing the name. 

The Royal Court issued a statement earlier this week saying: "On 8th 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, nor passed on to the writer. This specific event will form part of the Board’s internal review. 

In response to The Sunday Times investigation, prominent Jewish actress Tracy Ann-Oberman tweeted that she would be going ahead with her planned project at the Royal Court, saying: "There can be no better place to start unravelling anti-Jewish bias, unconscious or otherwise,than in the very progressive left theatre space."

When the controversy surrounding the play began, Director Adam Lenson said: “Casually making a silicon valley billionaire Jewish perpetuates antisemitic stereotypes and will cause ideological harm.”

Al Smith was previously nominated as most promising playwright at the Evening Standard Theatre awards for his play Harrogate.

He said Rare Earth Mettle was intended to tackle racism as a theme, along with the challenges facing ecology and the global economy. 

The Royal Court said it would: “reflect on the process that enabled the name to remain and what is missing in our systems that would have mitigated this unnecessary harm.”

It was also later revealed that Sour Lemons, the organisation used by the Royal Court for racial sensitivity training held anti-Israel views. 

Shoomi Chowdhury, who until June headed a team from the anti-racism consultancy signed an open letter calling on Sainsbury’s to stop selling goods made in the Jewish state.

“These tactics worked against apartheid South Africa, and they’re starting to work against apartheid Israel too,” the letter said. “The call has always been explicitly and openly about boycotting Israeli-made goods.”

It has also emerged that the founder of Sour Lemons, Sade Banks, said in 2013 she had been researching Israeli companies to boycott.

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