Comedian Terry Gilliam’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods is set to for Bath after it was cancelled by The Old Vic when staff protested over the Monty Python star’s strident views on the threat to freedom of speech by Wokeism.
Mr Gilliam, 80, is co-directing Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical but the London theatre unexpectedly announced last month the show’s highly anticipated run in the capital in Spring 2022 had been called off.
Today the show’s production company Scenario Two confirmed the Theatre Royal Bath will put on Gilliam’s highly-anticipated version from August next year.
Old Vic employees were said to have protested – and one was so upset they even resigned – because of Gilliam’s criticism of transgender rights, the #MeToo movement and BBC diversity, once joking that he identified as a ‘black lesbian in transition’.
And addressing allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein he said last year: ‘There are many victims in Harvey’s life, and I feel sympathy for them, but then, Hollywood is full of very ambitious people who are adults and they make choices’.
The Old Vic’s reputation was badly damaged by the #MeToo movement in 2017 when numerous allegations of sexual assault were brought against actor Kevin Spacey during his tenure as the theatre’s artistic director.
Scenario Two boss John Berry said the theatre bosses in Bath had shown an interest in hosting the musical within hours of the Old Vic withdrawing its support in November. He said Mr Sondheim, who died on November 26, was ‘steadfast’ in his support for Gilliam, adding the celebrated composer would ‘wholeheartedly approve the idea of staging in Bath’.
Mr Berry told The Times: ‘I think it is perfect for us. We get a chance to really test the production and then the plan is to bring it into town [London]. This is going to be really exciting. In some ways it is the perfect environment for Terry’s great vision. And Sondheim was thrilled when he knew we were going there.’
An anonymous producer added: ‘Of course there are younger artists who have different views than older generations but does that mean inspirational artists like Gilliam have to get cancelled?’
Old Vic employees were said to be angry and one even resigned because of Gilliam’s stance on Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo movement and transgender rights, according to The Stage.
In October Gilliam also publicly backed US comedian Dave Chappelle, who has been accused of attacking the trans ‘community’. The comments led to a walkout by staff at Netflix, but Gilliam called his comedy ‘socially aware, dangerously provocative and gut-wrenchingly funny’.
In 2018, Gilliam responded to the BBC diversity debate by saying: ‘I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian.’ And last year, he sparked a renewed backlash after describing the #MeToo movement as a ‘witch hunt’ that he claimed allowed ‘decent people’ to get ‘hammered’.
The Old Vic was seriously affected by the #MeToo movement in 2017 when numerous allegations of sexual assault were brought against actor Kevin Spacey during his tenure as the theatre’s artistic director.
The Old Vic’s decision to cancel Gilliam’s show came a fortnight after Gilliam urged his 495,000 Facebook followers to Chappelle’s controversial new Netflix show, The Closer.
‘I’m encouraging all of you to watch Dave Chappelle’s new show, The Closer, on Netflix,’ he wrote. ‘To me, he’s the greatest standup comedian alive today: incredibly intelligent, socially aware, dangerously provocative, and gut-wrenchingly funny.
Chappelle has provoked fury among trans activists for making jokes in which he asserts ‘gender is a fact’. His performances are meant to be a satire of the oversensitivity of trans activists.
The jokes were based upon earlier observations made by Harry Potter author J K Rowling’s who in 2019 stated that transgender women were not actually women and were a threat to her identity.
He has joked that women today view trans women the same way black people might view white women wearing blackface. He also remarked that women are entitled to feel anger toward transwomen, since Caitlyn Jenner won Glamour magazine’s 2015 Woman of the Year award.
Concerns were said to have been raised in May over Gilliam’s work with the Old Vic, but bosses had proceeded with the production.
No one from the central London theatre was available to comment last night, but The Old Vic has told The Stage in a statement executive director Kate Varah had met with staff following the show’s announcement in May.
Members of the Old Vic 12 – the organisation’s artistic development scheme – were among those voicing concerns, The Stage reported.
It was reported that senior management later met Gilliam and his co-director Leah Hausman ‘as a matter of course to discuss our culture and values’.
A spokesman said: ‘The Old Vic and co-producers Scenario Two mutually agreed that the production of Into the Woods will not take place at The Old Vic. We won’t be commenting further.’
Into the Woods hit Broadway in 1987 before making its West End debut at the Phoenix Theatre in 1990. It was later revived in 2010 at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
It was adapted for the big scream by Disney in 2015 with Meryl Streep, James Corden and Johnny Depp among the A-list cast.
This is not the first anti-woke criticism from a former Python.
In 2020, John Cleese attacked the ‘stifling’ effect of political correctness on creativity – saying there is no such thing as a ‘woke joke’.
He said Britain should not organise its society around ‘the sensibilities of the most easily upset people’, because that would lead to a ‘very neurotic society’.
Mr Cleese said that ‘affectionate teasing’ is a bonding mechanism, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘PC stuff started out as a good idea which is, ”Let’s not be mean to people”, and I’m in favour of that… despite my age.
‘I think Jesus Christ would have agreed… The main thing is to try to be kind.
‘But that then becomes a sort of indulgence of the most over-sensitive people in your culture, the people who are most easily upset.’
After Mr Cleese made the comments on Radio 4 Today show, people took to social media to post their funniest ‘woke’ jokes.
Twitter user Paul Dempsey wrote: ‘An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar.
‘What a fantastic display of the Union’s centuries-long multiculturalism.’