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Monty Python star Terry Gilliam blasts The Old Vic theatre for pulling his show

Comedian said his ‘unspeakable crime’ was recommending Dave Chappelle’s controversial Netflix special

Ellie Harrison
Tuesday 14 December 2021 10:13
<p>Gilliam in 2019</p>

Gilliam in 2019

Comedian Terry Gilliam has criticised The Old Vic theatre for pulling his show Into the Woods, following staff unrest at his involvement.

The Old Vic has not specified the reason for the cancellation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 play, but it is understood staff at the theatre were unhappy about previous remarks made by Gilliam about the #MeToo movement, diversity and trans rights.

The organisation’s decision to pull Into the Woods from its schedule in November came soon after Gilliam, who co-directs the play, posted in support of Dave Chappelle’s new comedy show The Closer on Netflix, which has been criticised as transphobic.

“I’m encouraging all of you to watch Dave Chappelle’s new show…” he had written on Facebook. “To me, he’s the greatest stand-up comedian alive today: incredibly intelligent, socially aware, dangerously provocative, and gut-wrenchingly funny.”

Gilliam had not responded to the move publicly until this week.

In a post on Facebook on Monday (13 December), the former Monty Python star wrote: “It is very sad that a great cultural institution like The Old Vic allowed itself to be intimidated into cancelling our production of Into the Woods by a small group of closed-minded, humour-averse ideologues on their staff, who absurdly, call themselves ‘The Old Vic 12’... as if they are the victims of some cruel injustice desperately fighting for their freedom!”

He continued: “My unspeakable crime was recommending my Facebook followers to watch a Netflix special by a brilliant and provocative American comedian, and then share with me their opinions.

“They did and civilisation did not collapse! However, The Old Vic’s artistic credibility certainly has.

“Freedom of Speech is often attacked, but I never imagined that Freedom of Recommendation would be under threat as well.”

A spokesperson for The Old Vic previously told The Stage: “The Old Vic and co-producers Scenario Two mutually agreed that the production of Into the Woods will not take place at The Old Vic. We won’t be commenting further.”

Gilliam previously courted controversy in an interview with The Independent last January, when he described the #MeToo movement as a “witch-hunt”. He also said he was “tired of white men being blamed for everything wrong with the world”, adding: “When I announce that I’m a black lesbian in transition, people take offence at that. Why?”

Dave Chappelle

Instead of showing at The Old Vic, Into the Woods will be revived at Theatre Royal Bath in August 2022.

The musical, by Sondheim and James Lapine, intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

Scenario Two co-director John Berry said: “Stephen Sondheim’s recent death has led to a worldwide outpouring of love and appreciation for his unique genius. We feel privileged to be working on this wonderful work and we are extremely grateful to Steve and James Lapine for their support as we searched for a new home for this production.”

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