Tambo and Bones Controversy: A London Theatre’s Bold Move Stirs Fiery Debate

by | May 29, 2023 | CROWDSOURCE™ | 0 comments

As the theatrical landscape continually evolves, certain performances command attention and ignite impassioned discussions. The latest offering from the Theatre Royal Stratford East, “Tambo and Bones”, has emerged as one such groundbreaking spectacle, fueling controversy with its exclusive “Black Out” event. This in-depth analysis explores the reactions and ramifications of this audacious move, while also delving into the significance of ‘Tambo and Bones’ within the broader context of racial inclusivity and artistic expression in contemporary theatre.

A theatre in East London has sparked widespread outrage with its decision to discourage white individuals from attending a highly anticipated play. The Theatre Royal Stratford East has faced severe criticism for urging white theatre-goers to steer clear of the upcoming performance of Tambo and Bones on July 5, claiming it as a special “Black Out” event aimed exclusively at a black-identifying audience. This exclusionary stance, vehemently defended by the theatre, has ignited a fiery debate on racial inclusivity and artistic expression.

The move, intended to create a “safe, private” space for exploring race-related issues, has been met with strong opposition. Festus Akinbusoye, Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and the UK’s first black PCC, condemned the event, labelling it a “poor and dangerous precedent.” Akinbusoye stressed the importance of cultural understanding and argued that society flourishes when diverse cultures and stories are shared and heard.

Akinbusoye’s sentiments have found support from Samuel Kasumu, a former Number 10 race adviser and current Conservative candidate for London’s mayoral election. Kasumu echoed the concerns, stating that he endorsed Akinbusoye’s viewpoint wholeheartedly.

However, amid the controversy, there are those who defend the Black Out event. Notably, Sir Trevor Phillips, a respected broadcaster and former politician, deemed it within the bounds of the law. Phillips argued that this unique event allows diverse audiences to experience the play in different ways, asserting that it might offer intriguing insights to a predominantly black audience.

Tambo and Bones, which originated in the United States in 2022, explores the tumultuous history of African Americans through the lives of its titular characters. Divided into three parts, the play delves into their experiences as minstrels, their transition into rap artists, and their involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement. The production has garnered mixed reviews, with critics highlighting its lack of impactful satire on racism and capitalism.

Matthew Xia, the director of the UK run of Tambo and Bones, has fervently defended the controversial “Black Out” performance, stating that it is imperative to create a space where the complexities of black performance can be explored without the influence of the “white gaze”. In promotional material, Xia emphasized the growing trend of creating private and safe spaces for black audiences to engage with productions centred around nuanced race-related issues.

While the Theatre Royal Stratford East maintains that the “Black Out” night is a celebration of congregation and healing, critics argue that such a move reinforces division rather than fostering unity. The exclusion of white attendees from a public event raises concerns about the potential ramifications and sends a divisive message to a society that is continuously being pummeled with far-left “anti-racist” propaganda.

As the debate intensifies, the London theatre scene finds itself at the centre of a contentious discussion surrounding the limits of inclusivity in the arts. With contrasting perspectives on the matter, it remains to be seen whether this exclusionary event will yield the results intended or hit them in the pocket.

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