×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Idris Elba Responds to Claims Two Female Writers Were Pushed Off His Play ‘Tree’

Idris Elba has responded to claims that two female former writers on his play “Tree” have not been acknowledged for their work and were pushed off the project.

Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley published a lengthy statement on Tuesday detailing their complaints about being removed from “Tree,” and not being credited as the producers reworked their original ideas.

The “Luther” star responded with a lengthy statement of his own, Thursday, the same day the play premiered at the Manchester International Festival. Elba and director Kwame Kwei-Armah are credited as its creators,

Elba refuted the writers’ claims and said the situation was “frustrating” in a statement posted on Twitter. “We wanted to offer an opportunity to support these new writers while creating a piece of work and scale and to a director’s vision,” he said. “The outcome is an accusation of plagiarism and discrimination.”

The play blends drama, music, and dance, and follows one man’s journey into the heart of contemporary South Africa.

Popular on Variety

All parties agree that Elba’s “mi Mandela” album was the starting point for the stage play, but thereafter the two sides are at loggerheads. Elba and the producers said the play took a different direction after Allen-Martin and Henley’s early work on it.

“As new ambitions started to be proposed as the jumping off point for development, Tori & Sarah decided they didn’t want to pursue the early thoughts and declined to work any further on the project,” Elba said. “We were left without any writers and had to start work very quickly, which is our contractual right as beholder of the original idea, the album.”

Elba added that Allen-Martin and Henley are acknowledged in the play’s program.

Allen-Martin and Henley’s post was entitled “Tree. A Story of Gender and Power in Theatre.” They discuss in detail the genesis of the project, it getting commissioned, Kwei-Armah coming on board, and their attempts to get recognition for their work.

They acknowledged that “moving the original writers off a project isn’t unusual and can be done professionally and amicably,” but added “the levels of intimidation and disrespect we faced were totally unacceptable, soul-destroying and as we’ve since heard — not uncommon for up and coming theatre writers, particularly female ones.”

There was more drama as “Tree” launched in Manchester. The performance was halted after a member of the audience, many of whom were standing, collapsed. The BBC reports Elba made sure she received medical assistance and the woman in question was fine.

The play is a co-production between Manchester International Festival, Young Vic and Elba’s Green Door Pictures, in association with Eleanor Lloyd Productions, Anthology Theatre, Eilene Davidson Productions, and Ragovoy Entertainment.

More Legit

  • Grand Horizons review

    'Grand Horizons': Theater Review

    Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one, as you surely must have: A nice, all-American family is in the process of breaking up and trying to make this sad state of affairs seem funny in Bess Wohl’s Broadway outing “Grand Horizons.” After 50 years of marriage, Nancy (the ever-elegant Jane Alexander) and Bill (the [...]

  • Uncle Vanya review

    'Uncle Vanya': Theater Review

    Director Ian Rickson has had success with Chekhov in the past. His exquisitely balanced, tragicomic production of “The Seagull” (2007 in London, 2008 on Broadway) was well-nigh flawless with, among others, Kristin Scott Thomas as painfully vulnerable as she was startlingly funny. Sadly, with his production of “Uncle Vanya,” despite felicities in the casting, lightning [...]

  • The Welkin review

    'The Welkin': Theater Review

    A life hanging perilously in the balance of charged-up, polarized opinions: This courtroom drama could easily have been titled “Twelve Angry Women.” But playwright Lucy Kirkwood (“Chimerica,” “The Children”) is far too strong and imaginative a writer for so hand-me-down a cliché. Instead she opts for “The Welkin,” an old English term for the vault [...]

  • Tina Fey attends the "Mean Girls"

    Tina Fey Announces Movie Adaptation of Broadway's 'Mean Girls' Musical

    It’s good to be mean…the “Mean Girls” musical, that is. Producers of the hit Broadway show announced today that the Tony-nominated production is being adapted for the big screen for Paramount Pictures. The musical is based on the 2004 movie of the same name. “I’m very excited to bring ‘Mean Girls’ back to the big screen,’ Tina Fey, [...]

  • Freestyle Love Supreme

    Watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and 'Freestyle Love Supreme' in Exclusive Clip From Sundance Documentary

    Before turning “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” into musical phenomenons, Lin-Manuel Miranda could have been found on stage, spouting off-the-cuff rhymes with his improv group, “Freestyle Love Supreme.” After performing across the globe, the troupe — founded 15 years ago by Miranda, his frequent collaborator Thomas Kail and emcee Anthony Veneziale — made its Broadway [...]

  • Ariana Grande 7 Rings

    Rodgers & Hammerstein Are Having a Moment Thanks to Ariana Grande, 'Oklahoma!'

    Jaws dropped when it was revealed that the late musical theater titans Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were granted 90% of the songwriting royalties on “7 Rings,” Ariana Grande’s 2019 No. 1 hit. The dominant motif of Grande’s song is taken from “My Favorite Things,” the cornerstone of R&H’s 1959 musical “The Sound of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content