New West End play allocates two nights for Black audiences to watch ‘free from the white gaze’

Playwright Jeremy O Harris said it was necessary to ‘radically invite’ Black people with iniatives such as Black Out nights

Maira Butt
Wednesday 28 February 2024 16:41 GMT
Kit Harrington in hair trap

A new West End play has allocated two nights exclusively for Black-identifying theatre-goers to enjoy the performance “free from the white gaze”.

Slave Play, written by American playwright Jeremy O Harris, will run at the Noël Coward Theatre in London from 29 June to 21 September and will co-star Kit Harington, best known for his role as Jon Snow in the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Two nights have been allocated to an “all-Black identifying audience”. “Black Out” tickets for performances on 17 July and 17 September will only be sold to people who identify as black.

Playwright Harris told BBC Sounds he was “excited” by the prospect, stating: “It is a necessity to radically invite them in with initiatives that say, ‘You’re invited’. Specifically you.”

In 2019, Harris came up with the idea of the Black Out nights for his polarising three-act epic Slave Play, a show about race, sex and power dynamics in interracial relationships.

A website for the initiative describes the idea as: “The purposeful creation of an environment in which an all-Black-identifying audience can experience and discuss an event in the performing arts, film, athletic, and cultural spaces – free from the white gaze.”

It is not the first time Harris’s work has featured Black Out performances in London – his play, Daddy, staged the nights in 2022.

Last year, producers of the satire Tambo & Bones allocated one night during its month-long run at Theatre Royal Stratford East for Black audiences to enjoy the experience in a safe place free from racialising dynamics.

“Over the last few years, a number of playwrights and directors in the US and the UK have created private and safe spaces for Black theatregoers to experience productions that explore complex, nuanced race-related issues,” Tambo & Bones director Matthew Xia explained on the Stratford East website.

“I felt that with a play like Tambo & Bones, which unpicks the complexity of Black performance in relation to the white gaze, it was imperative that we created such a space.”

Kit Harrington will star in Jeremy O Harris’s ‘Slave Play’ (Getty Images)

Slave Play will co-star Heartstopper’s Fisayo Akinade, Brassic actor Aaron Heffernan and Olivia Washington, the daughter of two-time Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington.

In addition to Black Out nights, every Wednesday from 26 June at 10am there will be 30 tickets released for the performance priced at £1, while on the morning of each performance there will be 10 seats available at £20 each.

Tickets are now on sale at

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