October 21 2021
Beauty and the Beast suspends star over alleged ‘inappropriate language’
Beauty and the Beast star Emmanuel Kojo has reportedly been suspended from the tour of the musical following allegations of inappropriate language.
The actor plays the Beast in the touring production of the musical, which began at Liverpool Empire – the first stop on its newly launched UK and Ireland tour – on September 23.
The show continued running there until October 16. However, according to newspaper reports, Kojo has not performed since October 9 and Alyn Hawke is playing the role in his absence.
A spokesman for Disney, which is producing the show, confirmed that an investigation had been launched.
He said: “We are aware of a complaint, which we take very seriously, and a thorough investigation is underway. The employee in question has been suspended until the matter is resolved.”
Courtney Stapleton and Emmanuel Kojo in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
According to the Sun, Kojo was suspended after making “inappropriate comments to a female crew member”.
Kojo stars in the musical alongside Courtney Stapleton as Belle. His previous roles have included celebrated performances in Show Boat and Oklahoma!, for which he was nominated for UK Theatre awards.
The UK touring production of Beauty and the Beast delayed its opening earlier this year, and began performances last month. It is due to continue until June 2022.
In April, director Rob Roth stepped down from the production, after an email he sent in support of producer Scott Rudin was made public. At the time, Rudin had stepped back from his involvement in productions in both the US and the UK, following accusations of bullying and abusive behaviour towards former employees.
Beauty and the Beast is directed and choreographed by Matt West, and produced by Disney Theatrical Productions.
Open letter calls on West End to improve access and increase disabled representation
Playwrights Jack Thorne and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm are among those who have signed an open letter calling on the commercial theatre sector to improve accessibility and disability representation.
Other signatories include actors Nicole Raquel Dennis, Irvine Iqbal and Lizzie Bea, actor and choreographer Beth HintonLever, Deaf theatre critic Liam O’Dell and actor and writer Amy Trigg.
Written by disability activist, photographer and writer Shona Louise, the letter is also supported by disability arts alliance #WeShallNotBeRemoved, audio description organisation VocalEyes and captioning charity Stagetext.
In the letter, Louise states that a “better standard of accessibility is needed urgently” within commercial West End theatres.
She writes: “Renovating a listed building may be hard, but it is not impossible, and when you care enough it is a challenge you will rise to.
“Just two examples: the Shaftesbury Theatre is currently undergoing works to allow disabled people access to the stalls for the first time and the oldest working theatre in London, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, has made enormous changes to move towards giving disabled audience members an equal experience.”
Louise adds: “We should not and cannot accept side entrances, restricted views, a severe lack of accessible performances, poor accessible toilet facilities and more as the standard any more. If it is this difficult for audience members, then can you imagine how challenging it is to try and work in this industry as a disabled person?
“Opportunities for employment for disabled people are severely limited by the shocking inaccessibility of our theatres, combined with ignorance from others in the industry. As a photographer, I have struggled immensely to find accessible work.”
The letter follows widespread criticism of West End musical Six’s transfer to the Vaudeville Theatre, due to its lack of accessible facilities.
Louise said: “I have experienced barriers in this industry as both a photographer and audience member over the past few years. It’s felt almost constant at times. Too many times I have tried to book a show to find I can’t even get inside the theatre. In 2021, this feels completely unacceptable to me.
“And as a theatre photographer it is even worse. I have a passion to work in this industry but there are hurdles in every direction. Disability and accessibility has not had the moment or conversation it deserves within this industry, and it’s about time that changed. Disabled people deserve a seat at the table.”
Barbican creates diversity role to ‘embed equality’ in HR operations
London’s Barbican Centre is to bolster its senior leadership team with a new consultancy role that aims to embed diversity and inclusion in its HR operations, following criticism of the department’s handling of discrimination reports.
It comes as the Barbican prepares to release the findings of an audit into its HR department, which The Stage understands has come under scrutiny following the publication of Barbican Stories, which featured nearly 100 accounts of discrimination from current and former workers.
The publication prompted an external review, alongside the audit of the Barbican’s HR that was also undertaken.
Last month, The Stage revealed that staff had been leaving the organisation in the face of plummeting morale, with the HR department also criticised for being “slow to react to the issues raised in Barbican Stories”.
Now, the Barbican is in the process of appointing an HR transformation consultant, who, The Stage understands, will work with the organisation on its HR strategies and be part of the senior leadership team.
A City of London Corporation spokeswoman said: “This new role will sit within the Barbican Centre’s senior leadership team and, working closely with our recently appointed director of equity, diversity and inclusion [Nina Bhagwat], will focus on embedding EDI throughout its HR
operations. Strengthening HR services is an essential part of the overall vision for a fully inclusive Barbican Centre, that sets an outstanding example in the cultural sector.”
The Stage understands that the findings of the HR audit and the external review will be released together, and are due to be published shortly.
At an all-staff meeting earlier this month, the Barbican’s management committed to change at the organisation and promised the arts venue would look “very different” in three months’ time.