The producers of the Tom Holland-starring ‘Romeo & Juliet’ have condemned ‘deplorable racial abuse’ towards a cast member

The producers of the upcoming West End production of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ have put out a statement today (April 5) condemning the ‘deplorable racial abuse put out towards a member of our company’.

While the Jamie Lloyd Company hasn’t named the individual subjected to racist abuse, it is understood by pretty much everyone that the person referred to is Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, the young Black actor and rising star who has been cast in the role of Juliet.

There was clearly going to be a fair amount of scrutiny over the casting of the co-romantic lead of a play that stars the extremely famous Spider-Man star Holland, who has an equally famous celebrity girlfriend. And this isn’t the Jamie Lloyd Company’s first experience casting a big name.

However, the abuse directed at Amewudah-Rivers seems fairly unprecedented in terms of stage casting, instead recalling online campaigns waged against the casting of women of colour in various recent blockbuster movies. As best as we can tell from some fairly grim social media posts is that it has little to do with Holland stans, and instead heavily leans towards an international array of obviously racist internet accounts, most of whom seem profoundly unlikely to have bought tickets for the play (which sold out almost instantly prior to any casting bar Holland). Many of the individuals are clearly based in America, and a not inconsiderable number seem to be under the impression that this is a film version, which it isn’t. 

Romeo & Juliet statement, 2024
Photo: Jamie Lloyd Company

It seems deeply regrettable that Holland’s fame has attracted the attention of a brand of internet racist that normally totally ignores what’s going on in theatres (not his fault, of course). But hopefully it will have little bearing on the audiences who attend the show, which is directed by the visionary Jamie Lloyd. The statement goes on to say ‘our rehearsal room is full of joy, compassion and kindness’ and hopefully that will go for the live performances too. 

‘Romeo & Juliet’ is at the Duke of York’s Theatre, May 11-Aug 3. It’s sold out but on Wednesday April 10 at 10am there will be a further sale of 5000 tickets available at £25 exclusively for under-30s, key workers and those receiving government benefits, which you can book here.

The best new theatre shows to book for in London in 2024.

Shakespeare plays in London.

Stay in the loop: sign up to our free Time Out London newsletter for the best of the city, straight to your inbox.