Opera by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall cancelled over gay reference
(Via BBC News) – An opera involving primary school pupils has been cancelled after the writer refused to remove references to a gay character’s sexuality.
The opera, Beached, written by Billy Elliot creator Lee Hall, was due to open this month in East Yorkshire.
Bay Primary School in Bridlington has pulled 300 pupils from the project.
Mr Hall accused Opera North, which is behind the production, of “censorship”, but the company said it “can appreciate the viewpoint of the school”.
Beached is a libretto which tells the story of a single father trying and failing to have a quiet day at the beach, and aims to teach a message of tolerance and inclusiveness.
It was was due to be staged on 15 June at The Spa in Bridlington, and has now been replaced with another performance.
‘Underhand and nasty’
Mike Furbank, East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s head of improvement and learning, said: “It was made very clear to the writer there were certain elements the school found offensive… including references to drug taking, sexual conduct and the use of homophobic name-calling.
“Although the language was toned down, it was still deemed as unacceptable for four to 11 year olds to be exposed to.”
One of the main scenes that the school was unhappy about only involves adults and includes the line: “Of course I’m queer/ That’s why I left here / So if you infer / That I prefer / A lad to a lass / And I’m working class / I’d have to concur.”
Harvey Brough, the opera’s composer, said he felt the council had behaved in an “underhand and nasty way” by citing other elements of the script that had been removed from the final draft after negotiations.
He added that himself and Mr Hall had asked to meet with parents to discuss the issue further, but had been turned down.
“There is so much joy and love and tolerance in the play – the issues are sensitively dealt with,” he said.