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Arts News!

Seyi Omooba and the Color Purple

The Arts in Court!

Even during the ongoing lockdown and complete closure of our theatres, the theatre industry is still in the news for many reasons. Alongside the battle to survive for the entire industry there is the ongoing story of Actress Seyi Omooba who is suing The Curve Theatre Leicester and her former agents, Michael Garret Associates Ltd (Global Artists) for breach of contract and religious discrimination for a total of £128,000.

Omooba was cast in the lead role of Celie for the 2019 Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome co production of the Musical “The Color Purple” based on Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning novel famously adapted for the Cinema by Steven Spielberg.

Omooba was successfully cast in the role by the producers following a transparent audition process which would begin rehearsals in late April 2019 with scheduled performances in May and June of that year.

On the 15th March 2019, Aaron Lee Lambert of the “Hamilton” company tweeted a screen shot of Omooba’s tweet from 2014 that laid bare her bigoted homophobic views, which she justifies by her religious Beliefs.

From the publication of that Tweet came the justified public back lash based around one simple question! “How can an openly homophobic actor truly portray an openly gay Character and not see the hypocrisy of that choice?”

That question amongst others were what the producers and production team faced, they gave Omooba the chance to respond and explain, as with all humanity we grow and learn and her thoughts and opinions may well have changed over the 5 year gap of the original tweet and its re-tweet.

Omooba stood by her original tweet and her homophobic belief’s which she again justified by her religious scruples. These beliefs were not shared by the Curve, and she was given the chance to resign from the production. She chose against that and therefore was removed by contract termination. She was also subsequently terminated by her Agents.

Clearly stung by this decision and the ongoing public backlash Omooba backed by Christian Concern (which is governed by her Father Ade Omooba who supports Gay Conversion therapy and unbelievably was awarded the MBE in the Queens Honours) have launched legal proceedings which have led to the ongoing Tribunal currently taking place in London.

Everyone has the inalienable right to their religious beliefs irrespective of what those are even if to others there wrong or against their own personal beliefs. There are many performers in the arts with strong faith; they however don’t use that to espouse homophobic rhetoric.

Many interesting issues have come out of the hearing to date, and here are our thoughts on them and the case thus far:

  • Omooba is justifying her homophobia by way of “this is what the bibles tells me” that is exactly the downfall of her argument. The bible is interpretive, we all interpret it differently. If the bible tells her that homosexuality is wrong (even if legal) she is entitled to that belief. What she isn’t entitled to is to hurt others with that belief which she has done on an epic scale.
  • The Tribunal has revealed that Omooba is claiming £4309 as part of the overall financial tally as this was the figure she would have been paid for the role. Omooba has been offered that sum by the Curve from the moment her contract was terminated. She made the choice not to Invoice the theatre to claim the payment. The offer of that payment remains open to this day. Therefore Seyi why didn’t you invoice for the payment?
  • Omooba has also said in court she hadn’t read the script of the musical and thus didn’t know Celie was a lesbian character. This is interesting; in 2017 Omooba performed the show in a “Concert” production at the Cadogan Hall, London in the role of Nettie. She clearly did this without reading the script or understanding the show entirely.
  • Omooba went on to say, if she had known that Celie was a gay character or it was brought to light during rehearsals that was the creative direction for the character she would have withdrawn from the production. Leaving both the cast and production team high and dry. She defends that by simply saying “that’s why theatre uses “covers” and “alternate” performers. Defence council then said to her in court, this is a most unprofessional method of working. We fully agree with the defence, how many performers would accept a role without reading the script, then finding out it doesn’t match your religious beliefs simply walk away even if that leaves just days before the opening curtain?
  • Alice Walker the author of the source book confirmed in court papers that “Celie” is based on her mother who was open in her sexual attraction to women confirming the character of “Celie” from her creation was homosexual. Therefore it’s somewhat mystifying that Omooba maintains her belief that “Celie” is not a lesbian character.
  • Two expert reports submitted by Omooba by respected director and arts Critic Lloyd Evans and Theologist Dr Martin Parsons were disallowed but can be read in full on the Christian Concern website. We have examined both documents especially Lloyd Evans which is a long winded defence document that delves into the theory of classical Greek drama’s by way of defending Omooba’s homophobia and thus justifying her suitability to play “Celie”. Its therefore clear Omooba maintains her homophobic views and her ability to play any character irrespective of the hypocrisy that might engender.
  • Hypocrisy is the very heart of the issue, the arts especially the theatre has a lifelong and unbreakable bond with the LGBTQI+ community they are often the life blood of one another. This situation is not an attack on a woman of colour, or indeed her incredible talent as an actor and vocalist. Omooba is blinded by religious belief that she simply cannot see she is the walking embodiment of a selfish hypocrite. She is fully allowed to express her belief that homosexuality is wrong, irrespective of how hurtful that is to not only her fellow cast members, the arts industry and indeed the non homophobic world. The fact she can absorb that hurt and still justify she can perform a role of a character she truly and utterly believes is wrong and a sin is sheer hypocrisy.
  • No Matter how good her portrayal of Celie would have been, it would have been a lie to the audience who would have either boycotted the production or worse still turned up to boo her from the stage. The law does protect the right to free speech and Omooba is fully entitled to share her views but she must be willing to accept the consequences of that decision. Something this tribunal shows she isn’t willing to do.
  • Oomba has a red line in her casting choices, she said she would not play a homosexual character due to her religious beliefs. She never informed the Curve or to a certain degree her agents of that decision. She still however accepted the role of Celie which defies logic.

Final Thoughts:

 The tribunal is ongoing until 11th of February, and we at Scotsgay arts hope the court find in favour of the Curve Leicester and Omooba’s former agents. The only person to blame for this situation is Seyi Omooba herself, No one is denying her religious freedoms but she is happy to deny the freedom of human sexuality based on that religious belief, is it really ok for her to say it’s wrong to be homosexual yet whilst being wrong can happily play one of the great LGBTQI+ characters?. Seyi, once your homophobic truths came to light you were then no longer a suitable actor to portray the role of Celie, it really is that simple.

Theatre is a family we all stand by one another when one person hurts we all hurt together, Omooba’s words in that original tweet cut deep but what cuts deeper still is her inability to accept her actions have consequences and these now include costing her the career she so cherished.

In the video posted to youtube by Christian Concern, Omooba says just wants those who are Christian to be able to perform in theatre. Seyi yes they can perform in Theatre but when you spread homophobic hate and defend it by Christianity that isn’t Christian and isn’t in the heart of what Theatre making is all about. 

Have a look at the video from Christian Concern but do remember this is purely one side of the argument; we shall update this article once the verdict comes in. For now however what do you think?

Christian Concern Youtube Video

Preview

Glasgow Film Festival 2021

Glasgow Film Festival 2021 Preview:

Although Cinema’s the length and breadth of the country remain closed under covid restrictions, cinema and film is enjoying a boom period especially in streaming and online services.

As we make our way through March the Glasgow Film Festival has announced their programme for 2021 and have also confirmed the entire event will be held digitally. The 2021 festival will run from Wednesday 24th February to Sunday 7th March inclusive.

The festival itself will feature a strong LGBTQI+ strand and festival Co-Director Allan Hunter spoke to Scotsgay arts saying “The Glasgow Film Festival is happening entirely online this year so there is no excuse not to stay home and watch films. The Festival always reflects the wide range of LGBTQI+ stories being told around the world and this year is no exception. I would particularly recommend Marley Morrison’s Sweetheart in which a teenage lesbian experiences a bittersweet family holiday. It is sharp, funny and features a star-making performance from Nell Barlow . Poppy Field is a real nail biter. Inspired by true events it follows a closeted Romanian police officer in a work situation that threatens to out him. The documentary Steelers celebrates the 25th anniversary of the world’s first gay rugby club and is full of personal stories that will definitely bring a tear to the eye.”

So lets take a look at the pick of the LGBTQI+ offerings coming up at the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival!

Sweetheart – World Premiere

Billed as a nostalgic coming of age tale for a new generation, Marley Morrison’s debut feature Sweetheart is a story inspired by her own teenage battles with gender identity and sexuality. The film follows AJ (Nell Barlow), a socially awkward, environmentally conscious teenager who is dragged by her mum to a holiday park in Dorset. She is determined to have the worst week of her life, but her plan comes unstuck when she meets flirty, free-spirited lifeguard Isla (Ella Rae Smith) who might just be the girl of her dreams.

Steelers, The World’s First Gay Rugby Club – UK Premiere

The Kings Cross Steelers were the world’s first gay rugby team, created in 1995 when legal same sex marriage was decades away and very few straight teams would even agree to play them. Twenty-five years on, they are heading to Amsterdam for the world gay rugby tournament – The Bingham Cup. Eammon Ashton-Atkinson’s uplifting documentary focuses on the individual stories of those whose lives have been changed by the club. From lesbian head coach Nic Evans who still has to fight to be recognised as a senior official on the pitch, to a player who is as fierce in drag competitions as he is on the pitch.

Poppy Field – UK Premiere

Cristi (Conrad Mericoffer) is an officer with the Romanian police. He has a long-term, long-distance relationship with Hadi (Radouan Leflahi) who lives in Paris. An oppressive, macho work culture convinces him to remain in the closet. One evening the police are called to a cinema where protesters have stopped the screening of a queer film. Tensions are high, tempers are fraying. One man in the audience clearly recognises Cristi. How far will he go to prevent himself from being outed? Inspired by true events, this is a taut, compelling tale of prejudice and the cost of living a lie.

Cowboys – UK Premiere

Anna Kerrigan’s award-winning debut shows a rare understanding of the complexities and challenges of modern family life. Troy (Steve Zahn) is on a camping trip with his transgender son Joe (Sasha Knight), an 11-year-old with a passion for cowboy yarns and the great outdoors. As they travel through the majestic beauty of the northern Rockies, television news reports emerge claiming that Joe is missing. As detective Faith (Ann Dowd) investigates we see a bigger picture involving Joe’s conservative mother Sally (Jillian Bell) and her inability to let go of the little girl she loves.

Truman and Tennessee – UK Premiere

Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams were friends for the best part of 40 years. Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s poignant documentary captures the complexity of a relationship that journeyed from fond regard to bitchy disdain and back again. A wealth of archive material confirms the two literary giants as central to American cultural life in the 20th century. Jim Parsons (Capote) and Zachary Quinto (Williams) voice their words in a celebration of what the two men achieved and what it cost them.

The LGBTQI+ strand makes up a small proportion of the films on offer, films that challenge, inform and entertain in equal measure, and while we wait for cinemas to fully reopen supporting independent cinema and our film festivals has never been more important. So grab the popcorn and settle down on the sofa!

For full details on the films we have selected and all the films across the festival and to book your screening tickets go to:

https://glasgowfilm.org/glasgow-film-festival/whats-on/all

Brett Herriot Review

BBD Productions Big Burns Night Bash

Big Burns Night Bash Review

***** 5 Stars

Edinburgh based Big Band Does Productions continues its collection of Online offerings. Following Halloween and Christmas inspired productions they turn to Scotland’s national Bard Robert Burns and all things Scotland for a production that see’s them return to form.

Opening with a visually stunning and vocally haunting rendition of “Sky Boat Song” performed with touching Grace by Natalie and Danielle Logan. The perfect blend of Scotland’s lands and  truly accomplished vocals get this thirty minute production off to a beautiful start.

Next up is Lewis Watson with a “Burns” inspired ode “Tae a Sesh” pithy, witty and charming this is contemporary Scotland reflecting on its heritage and both writing and performance blend in a perfect marriage.

Caledonia, Dougie MacLean’s hit from 1977 has become somewhat of alternative national anthem for many Scots. Here Luca Manning and Rosie Graham give it a touchingly simplistic covering. They let the lyrics speak for themselves and it shines! Luca must have the best ear rings of the production to boot!

Moving on to our first dose of actual “Burns” Sally Cairns delivers “To a Louse” yes that’s not a mistype of the more well known “To a Mouse”. Cairns deliver’s with excellent accession and dialect that blazes through the screen.

 We then get some Scottish pop in the form of Amy McDonald’s “This is the Life” performed by Georgia Fish, her rich “indie” style vocals give extra charm to this punchy number.

The Devine Chris McLeish takes us back to 1841 and “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond” this song will always be eternal and McLeish delivers something truly special, he sings from his soul and its achingly beautiful.

Returning again to “Burns” himself Rebecca Gordon Scott delivers a charming “A Red, Red, Rose”.

Producer Scott Coltman takes to the screen next, performing “Wee Andy Webber’s Scottish Medley” which proved a hit for Dean Park back in 1998. The medley see’s Lord Webbers greatest hits given a Celidh twist. Coltman brings the comedy to the production along with a costume change or two! Its a fun change of pace.

If you’re going to have a “Burns” bash you have to have a haggis! Joe Hunter delivers the “address to a Haggis” in a flawless performance of depth that showcases Scotland’s love for its National Dish.

The Haggis eaten, the Dram’s drunk it’s time for “Auld Lang Syne” performed by Hazel Beattie, well know to Scottish Audiences for “Rabbie” and “Sunshine on Leith” this is the ultimate high point of the production. A vocal that touches the heart, and moves the soul. Made all the more powerful by the touching tribute to the great “Andy Gray”. Musical performance at its best.

To close the show, the company turn to monster hit musical “Sunshine on Leith” and full cast rendition of “Over and Done with” it brings the video to a rousingly Scottish curtain down.

Superbly edited by Tommie Travers BBD have returned to form with the Big Burns Night Bash let’s hope it rolls over into their next venture, BBD does Valentines. Beyond that lets all wish the company are back performing Live soon. For now this is well worth half an hour of anyone’s evening.

BBD are Supporting Acting for Others please donate what you can at:

www.actingforothers.co.uk/donate

BBD Big Burns Night Bash is available digitally at the link below:

Arts News!

Andy Gray a reflection.

Andy Gray:

Starting this article hurts, finding the words to sum up one of our countries greatest comics, actors, writers and his crowning achievement King of Pantomimes just a day after his untimely passing was announced still feels surreal and palpably untrue.

On Screen:

As “Chancer” in BBC Scotland’s “City Lights”

Andy Gray is gone at 61 and looking back at his life it’s a rich legacy of man who was born to perform and made the arts world his life. Starting out his career in his native Perth working at Perth Rep and Borderline along with connections to 7:84 and other ground breaking companies of the late 70’s and early 80’s . Andy rose to national promise thanks to his stints on BBC’s Naked Video which led in 1987 to the creation of “Chancer” opposite the Late Gerard Kelly in “City Lights”. Andy also put in spirited cameos in other Comedy Unit productions for the BBC including Rab C Nesbitt. Although the bulk of Grays Career was spent in his true love, the theatre, nothing matched the thrill of a live audience. Andy returned to our Screens in BBC Scotland’s “River City” as the beloved “Pete Galloway” in 2016. It was in River city that viewers got to see the depth of Andy’s acting skill. Although “Pete” had a strong comic element there were powerful scenes as the character battled mental health issues and Andy shone as the consummate actor, tears of laughter replaced with tears of raw emotion.

In the Theatre:

The Cast of ” I Dreamed a Dream”

In the theatre mention the name Andy Gray and instantly people connect him to Pantomime and rightly so, but Andy had a varied career in the theatre including Straight drama, Musicals and classical theatre parts not to mention his stints performing in the Edinburgh Fringe.

Stints at all the major theatres across Scotland beckoned for Andy including “Werewolf” at the Traverse in Edinburgh, a rollicking performance as Nicely Nicely in Kenny Irelands acclaimed 2001 production of Guys and Dolls at the Royal Lyceum opposite his friend Elaine C Smith. 2002 saw Gray team up with his “City Lights” co star Gerrard Kelly for a production of “The Odd Couple” at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews which would then go on to tour the country.

Gray would return to the Royal Lyceum for Kenny Ireland in 2003 for Yasmin Rez’s “Art” performing with James Macpherson and Forbes Masson. Their combined timing was a reflection of perfection in modern theatre.

Later years would see him rack up credits in west end hit “Stones in his pockets” playing opposite his panto partner Allan Stewart. “The Rise and Fall of Little Voice” and “I dreamed a dream” the Susan Boyle musical both with Elaine C Smith along with a spell in “A midsummer’s night dream”. Andy’s pedigree in the theatre will never be matched our indeed surpassed.

On The Fringe:

Publicity Shot for “Kiss Me Honey Honey”

Andy became a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe popping up in 1999 in Theatre Archipelago’s “Communicado” although far from a smash hit success it gave Andy the taste for working in the constraints that the Fringe brings. 2005 saw him begin a long tenure with Gilded Balloon appearing Bob Steiner’s “A limited Run” at the Gilded Balloons Teviot House. It was to the Gilded Balloon in 2013 that Andy would return to team up with his Panto pal Grant Stott for a series of fringe adventures. 2013’s “Kiss me honey honey” written by Philip Meeks which was the runaway success of that year’s festival and returned in 2014. In the 2013 season Andy did double duty also performing in “God Bless Liz Locked” earning plaudits for both. 2015 saw Andy and Grant back in the Gilded Balloon Teviot for the darkly funny “Willie and Sebastian” in which Andy won the Stage Award for performing excellence. 2017 saw the pair move to Gilded Balloons new Space “The Rose Theatre” and there greatest success with “Double Feature” This play truly showcased how the partnership of Gray and Stott had matured working comedy with ease and pathos laden drama with equal skill it was a joy to watch. In 2018 Andy and Grant were scheduled to return to the Rose for Ruaraidh Murray’s “Junkies”. Andy completed one performance only as his diagnosis of blood cancer saw the cancellation of the run. Andy’s fringe adventures spanned over 25 years and the festival will be forever enriched by his contributions.

Pantomime:

The Golden Trio of the King’s Panto during “Mother Goose”

Andy’s true love and the part of his legacy he will be remembered for most is Pantomime.  Especially his long tenure with the King’s Theatre Edinburgh. Taking to the Stage of the King’s first in 1999 playing opposite Allan Stewart’s buttons and Dorothy Paul’s Fairy Godmother in Cinderella it was the start of something uniquely special. The following year local radio and TV personality Grant Stott joined the cast for Dick Whittington and Stewart donned the frock as Dame Aunty May and the Golden Trio was born. 2006 saw the King’s mark its centenary with Cinderella once more gracing the stage as it had 100 years before. The curtain down of this season would see the start of what Andy himself would call “his wilderness years”. Gray would miss 2007’s Goldilocks, 2008’s Aladdin and 2009’s Robinson Crusoe panto’s at the Kings. Panto never left him though during those years appearing in London at the Barbican as Dame for Jonathan Harvey’s Pantomime and in Glasgow King’s panto opposite his old friend Gerard Kelly. Ultimately the King’s Edinburgh was always home and a rejuvenated Andy returned to the Kings in 2010 for Jack and Beanstalk dawning the crown as King Crumble. It was the King’s Edinburgh that Andy would spend the rest of his Pantomime life. 2018 saw the Kings announce Beauty and the Beast as that year’s panto. Andy was announced in the casting, but following his diagnosis, a great deal of soul searching and on the advice of his doctors he reluctantly took the year off. However he made an unscheduled appearance on stage during the curtain call near the end of the run, the raw emotion flowing over the footlights Andy then knew just how much he was loved by the Edinburgh audiences and what he meant to them. It fueled Andy for his comeback to panto in 2019’s Goldilocks and the three bears. Arriving on stage in a glitzy production number adorned with a Top Hat, the show stopped for a sustained standing ovation, Andy beaming in the spotlight, he had come home once more. Alas that’s the lasting memory panto audiences will have of him, that and his ability to latch onto a single word, balloon, banana or umbrella all words that on their own aren’t funny but give them to Andy, comedy joy was created. Andy Gray truly is and always will be the King of the King’s Pantomimes.

 A Personal Reflection:

Andy Gray and Grant Stott performing “Double Feature”

The greatest attribute of Andy Gray was his humanity, love and compassion regardless of how you met him, taxi driver, stage door keeper, fellow performer, journalist or even audience member you felt you knew Andy; he was a friend and a trusted one at that. For me I met Andy several times over the years at Panto and Theatre press nights, sharing many a laugh and glass or two of prosecco. In 2017 I ended up sharing a dressing room with Andy and Grant during that’s years Fringe, I was performing two musicals in rep which ran back to back with Andy and Grants “Double Feature”. The Captivate cast would be well into the second act of our shows when Andy arrived, to take up his space in the dressing room, it was always joyous, nothing got him down and the laughter would ring out as would the odd story of his adventures across his career which the younger members of our cast would devour. He and Grant were true professionals through and through, as we took our curtain call Andy and Grant would be on the stairs behind the stage waiting to get access to set up for their show. They spoke to every single cast member who passed them, saying well done and great show and you could tell by the sparkle in Andy’s eye he truly meant it. To share such an intimate space with Andy across the period of the festival was a true gift that’s left memories that will last a lifetime.

Thank You

Andy Making a curtain call appearance During Beauty and the Beast

Andy Gray, comic, actor, writer, performer, father, grandfather, family member and friend you have been taken far too soon and the irony of your beating cancer with humor and good grace you were renowned for does not go un-noticed only to be taken so soon after that victory. None the less we say thank you, for all those years of joy, laughter and memories you’ve given to audiences across Scotland. You were a true gentleman filled in equal measure with compassion, love and talent. We shall never see your likes again, but we will always remember you, standing in the spotlight on the Kings Theatre Stage taking in the adulation you so richly deserved.

All at Scotsgay arts send our love to Andy’s Partner Tamara, Daughter Clare and all his family. Also to Allan Stewart, Grant Stott and the entire team at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh Pantomime.

Until we meet again,

Brett

Editor, Scotgay arts.

Brett Herriot Review

Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home, The Curve, Review

Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home

***** 5 Stars

“ As if we never said Goodbye“

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s undeniable masterpiece of filmic composition will always be Sunset Boulevard. Telling the story of faded silent movie star Norma Desmond (the utterly divine Ria Jones) who longs to reclaim her stardom when studio writer Joe Gillis (the gorgeous Danny Mac) happens upon her mansion thus leading to a story of love, forgotten dreams, broken hearts and lives forever changed.

The show came to life in 1992 in Webbers Sydmonton festival with then unknown Ria Jones performing the role of “Norma” to great success but due to her youth she never travelled to Broadway or the west end with the production. Fast forward over 25 years and following a stint covering for Glenn Close in the Colosseums famed 2016 production, the original star Ria Jones returns once more to reclaim the greatest role of all and succeeds in style.

The Curve originally produced this show in 2017 and toured it extensively in 2018/19. To accommodate social distancing the production was to be revived for socially distant run, however the closures of theatres to audiences led to a change in plan and Director Nikolai Foster working with Crosscut Media have produced a filmed version of the show that is truly Astounding.

Using every inch of the theatre, including the auditorium, fly tower and lighting rigs this is an astonishing tour de fore production that is the perfect blend of live theatre and motion picture which is enhanced by Douglas O’Connell video and projection design. Ben Cracknell’s Lighting design is everything and more from sweeping vistas of the balcony to a stunning moment in the spotlight for Norma.

Jones performs with consummate grace with a voice that soars through the lens of the camera and into the heart of the viewer, especially during numbers such as “with one look” and “as if we never said goodbye. She grips the audience with her utter conviction as Norma, her’s is the Ms. Desmond for all time, played with style and class she grips from the off and never let us go, her descent into madness is both thrilling and breathtaking

Danny Mac also delivers spectacularly, imbuing Gillis with wisdom, corruption, and an honesty the role demands and possess a powerful voice and understated charm the character needs. Special mention must also go to Adam Pearce as Max Von Mayerling his voice is thrilling for his depth and warmth. Completed by a strong supporting cast and a large 16-piece orchestra, Director Nikolai Foster has delivered the most awe-inspiring production of the show to date.

Whilst we still await being able to sit in the darkness of theatre auditoriums once more The Curve have achieved the almost impossible, delivering the thrill of live theatrical performance for audiences at home, this production truly does teach us all new ways to dream, unmissable, thrilling and delivered with love. Sunset Boulevard has never shone brighter.

The Curve Leicester presents Sunset Boulevard – In Concert, At Home, The run has been extended to Sunday 17th of January to book tickets for the live stream go to: https://www.curveonline.co.uk/whats-on/shows/sunset-boulevard-in-concert-at-home/