An extremely odd and disconcerting story was reported in the Guardian this week, regarding a National Youth Theatre play that has abruptly cancelled, just two weeks before its opening night. There are fears that ‘Homegrown’ was pulled due to the sensitive subject matter: young people drawn to ISIS.
I spoke to the Huffington Post about the issues raised for English PEN:
Robert Sharp, from writers’ association English PEN, voiced his concern over the cancellation. He told HuffPost UK: “English PEN is concerned by the suggestion that Homegrown may have been cancelled because of its subject matter. We are currently in the midst of a government crackdown on extremism that includes proposals that could curb free speech. This creates a culture of caution, and the cancellation of the play appears to be the first instance of that caution impinging directly on artistic expression.”
Its important to emphasise that this is an evolving story. I hope more will be known at a later date. If the theatre has cancelled the play through fear of causing offence then that would cast a terrible ‘chill’ over freedom of expression. But conversely, an artistic director does have the right to cancel a play he feels does not meet the standards of his theatre.
There’s a petition to reinstate the play.