Headteacher fired over 'The Merchant of Venice’ performance where audience was 'encouraged to shout antisemitism'

People were reportedly encouraged to shout 'burn the Jews' at certain points


A head teacher of a private school in Canada has been fired after putting on a performance of The Merchant Of Venice where parents and students in the audience were reportedly encouraged to shout "Burn The Jews".

According to the National Post they were encouraged to shout this in response to slogans about persecuting Jews and Shylock during the play, which was performed at the Bishop Strachan School (BSS) in Toronto by London-based Box Clever Theatre company last month.

Parents sent a letter to the school raising concerns about inappropriate language and antisemitic content.

They wrote: “The Box Clever production was meant to provide a modern spin to the Merchant of Venice play and link the antisemitic messages to those that Hitler used in the Holocaust.

“Instead, as described below, Box Clever materially exaggerated the antisemitic sentiment of the original version of the play and sadly introduced the Holocaust in a humorous light that minimized its impact and offended many of the Jewish students whose families were personally affected.”

Judith Carlisle, the school's head, was let go by administrators on Friday.

In a statement, the school said it was "an error to present that particular version of the play", adding: "The appropriate context was not provided to students to prepare them."

Ms Carlisle said: "I would never deliberately offend students entrusted to my care or their parents.

"I deeply regret that that there was not a plan in place to ensure that teachers were fully prepared to engage the students on the play.

"As head, the responsibility for that oversight ultimately rests with me. I deeply regret any hurt or offence that has been caused by this."

Ms Carlisle was a director of Box Clever, until October 2017, according to Companies House records.

The theatre company apologised for the upset caused by the play and said it had been putting on the same production since 1998.

"The production seeks to challenge hatred in all its manifestations and remind audiences of the dangers and consequences of unchallenged discrimination,” said a spokesperson.

"The company was, is and will remain opposed to antisemitism and all other forms of discrimination."

The play was also put on at the private Oxford High School, where Ms Carlisle was headteacher for six years, before moving to BSS last year.

Oxford High said it "does not recognise the description of the performance at BSS as similar to that performed in Oxford".

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