Now the Edinburgh Fringe is stung by a ‘yellow face’ row: Asians complain about show where white male actor dresses as a Japanese geisha – after this year’s festival was mired in string of controversies
- British East and South East Asians in Theatre and Screen Industry (BEATS) slam racist ‘yellow face’ performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year
- Industry group took offence to play which sees a white male portray a Geisha
- Award-winning Cypriot performer Marios Ioannou hits back at racism claims
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was today facing calls to introduce new guidelines for future shows after Asian audience members claimed they were subjected to ‘publicly-licenced racism’ during a show.
The British East and South East Asians working in Theatre and Screen Industry (BEATS) complained about a play in which an award-winning male actor portrays a Geisha, a traditional Japanese hostess.
The Tea Ceremony sees Marios Ioannou, a Cypriot performer, wearing white face paint as he ‘leads the audience on a journey of modern-day abuse, child labour, human trafficking, torture and slavery’. according to the official Fringe website.
BEATS say the performance included an ‘extremely triggering and traumatic’ use of ‘unashamed yellow face’ in the wake of historical abuses.
Although the campaign group acknowledged that ‘no one wants rules’ at the iconic comedy festival, they urged organisers to draw up ‘guidelines’ that will prevent future instances of ‘publicly licensed racism on stage’.
The show’s producer has since hit back at the accusations of racism, while Mr Ioannou also refuted the claims.
The Tea Ceremony sees Marios Ioannou (pictured), a Cypriot performer, wearing white face paint as he ‘leads the audience on a journey of modern-day abuse, child labour, human trafficking, torture and slavery’. according to the official Fringe website
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was today facing calls to introduce new guidelines for future shows after Asian audience members claimed they were subjected to ‘publicly-licenced racism’ during a show
The controversial play sees the traditional geisha openly question her role as an entertainer as the themes of abuse, child labour, trafficking and slavery are explored.
The statement from BEATS added: ‘We have no wish to see a sanitised and conservative fringe. The problem is, though, that with outdated racist performance tropes, a sanitised and conservative fringe is exactly what we get.’
SRSLY_yours, the producing group behind the show, said they were in contact with two Japanese contributors who ‘did not believe it was inappropriate’.
They said in a statement: ‘We are pleased that Tea Ceremony is generating discussions of long-standing issues of prejudice and racism.
‘Its themes are challenging for our audiences, but we refute any suggestion of yellowface or whitewashing – both of which are anathema to the show’s message.
‘It is a very big discussion about cultural appropriation in art, and we are happy to open up a dialogue.
‘But I was surprised this was not spoken about while we were there, only after we left, which is not very nice.
‘There will be another staging of the Tea Ceremony in London, so it would be good to sort things out before that. We were not racist, so it was a very unnecessary comment.’
It comes just weeks after the Fringe was hit with accusations of cancel culture after a comic who allegedly exposed himself on stage saw his next set withdrawn at the 11th-hour.
Jerry Sadowitz, who also performs magic as part of his routine, claimed his show had been ‘cheapened and simplified as unsafe, homophobic, misogynistic and racist’, resulting it in being cancelled at The Pleasance at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
The 60-year-old’s second night was pulled after the venue said his material failed to ‘align with [their] values.’
Taking to Twitter, Mr Sadowitz defended his show, saying ‘it is what it is for those who enjoy it’, that it that it was not his intention to upset anyone and suggested those who are offended by show’s content ‘stick to Carry On films’.
The Pleasance has so far refused to confirm what part of the act was deemed offensive, but it said in a statement that ‘opinions such as those displayed by Sadowitz are not acceptable.’
‘Opinions such as those displayed on stage by Sadowitz are not acceptable and The Pleasance are not prepared to be associated with such material,’ the statement read.
Announcing the show’s cancellation, The Pleasance director, Anthony Alderson, added: ‘The Pleasance is a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material.
‘While we acknowledge that Jerry Sadowitz has often been controversial, the material presented at his first show is not acceptable and does not align with our values.
‘This type of material has no place on the festival and the Pleasance will not be presenting his second and final show.’
Dark comedy group K*** and the Gang have sold out their four-week run of ‘Shannon Matthews: The Musical’ (pictured: A poster for the show) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month
The performance is based on the true story of the faked abduction of nine-year-old Shannon Matthews, who was reported missing in 2008. After a major search, the schoolgirl was found hidden in the base of a bed in a grotty flat just a mile away from her home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
A comedy musical also caused outrage this year after it included jokes about the disappearance of schoolgirl Shannon Matthews.
Dark comedy group K*** and the Gang sold out their entire four-week run of ‘Shannon Matthews: The Musical’, which critics called ‘cruel and disgusting’.
Nine-year-old Shannon was the victim of a faked kidnapping by ‘Britain’s worst mother’ Karen Matthews in 2008, who drugged, tied up and hid her own daughter as she plotted to pocket a £50,000 reward.
One of the most outspoken critics included Dewsbury’s Tory MP Mark Eastwood, who helped in the search for missing Shannon in 2008, and local Labour councillor Mussarat Pervaiz who blasted the show’s trivialisation as ‘disgusting’.
Dewsbury West Councillor Ammar Anwar said the musical is ‘bang out of order’ and ‘should have never been allowed’.
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