LETTER:Justified anger seen in black Briton's play

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The Independent Online
From Mr Philip Hedley

Sir: I am pleased that the reaction to Black Theatre Co-operative's production of Zumbi, currently on our stage, is explosive enough to make your news pages ("Play `intimidates white audiences' ", 7 July). By the end of this highly charged show, half a dozen people have usually walked out; several remain weeping in their seats; and the majority, black and white, have leapt to their feet to cheer the final rousing affirmation of the rich contribution that black people have made to British life.

There is a great deal of justified, pent-up anger in the black British community, and Zumbi imaginatively demonstrates how that has built up from historical wrongs and current injustices. It is interesting that some people quoted say they were intimidated, particularly by the finale, which your reporter writes has the "cast arms upraised against a photograph of a black man aiming a gun". It is, in fact, a seven-year-old boy, and for the Brazilian director this represents a warning of what can happen if grievances are not listened to. Today there are seven-year-olds on the streets of Rio protecting themselves with guns.

It is one of the duties of the arts to give warnings; but already our show is being taken over by events, because the kind of fear that can mistake an expressionless black boy's face for that of an intimidating man was encouraged last week by Sir Paul Condon's inept use of unsubstantiated statistics regarding muggers on the streets of London.

Indeed, as a constructive gesture in the cause of anti-racism, I would like to offer Sir Paul and all members of the Metropolitan Police half- price tickets for Zumbi. They need only to flash their badges at the box office.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Hedley

Artistic Director

Theatre Royal Stratford East

London, E15

10 July