×

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.

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

  • Because of Winn Dixie review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Because of Winn Dixie,' the Musical

    Watching the musical “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., it’s hard not to think of another show that premiered in the same regional theater 43 years ago. It, too, featured a scruffy stray dog, a lonely-but-enterprising young girl and a closed-off daddy who finally opens up. But “Winn Dixie,” based [...]

  • MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby

    Off Broadway Review: 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow'

    There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of “Three Sisters” like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater’s new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. [...]

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]

  • HBO's 'SUCCESSION

    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content