Princess Eugenie’s role as Royal patron of the Print Room at The Coronet has caused her to be caught in an embarrassing racism row after the Notting Hill theatre was accused of ‘yellowcasting’ – hiring white actors to play Chinese characters.
A former cinema – famously featured in the 1999 Richard Curtis film Notting Hill – the newly reinvented Print Room welcomed a delighted Princess Eugenie as its royal patron only last month. The theatre now faces attacks, however, after casting white actors to play Chinese characters in its first play, In the Depths of Dead Love, which is directed by Gerrard McArthur and written by Howard Barker.
Theatre director Andrew Keates has written an open letter to the Print Room, which accuses the venue of endorsing the ‘racist, outdated and unnecessary practice of “yellowface”’ and encourages the theatre to hire ‘appropriate’ actors.
Keates – who is currently directing a play at the Park Theatre in London that will feature East Asian performers – has also encouraged Princess Eugenie to revoke her patronage of the Print Room in acknowledgement of the controversy.
In a statement he said, ‘As a representative of British East Asians in this country, I do not see how she could lend her name to a theatre that is not supporting racial equality, either actively or through ignorance.’
Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on the accusations but supporters of the princess stress that her role as patron of the Print Room is not related to the details of particular productions staged there.
The Print Room stands by its choice of casting, citing the fact that the characters are not Chinese and In the Depths of Dead Love is not a Chinese play.
Representatives of the theatre released a statement saying: ‘The production references a setting in Ancient China and the characters’ names are Chinese. These are literary allusions in Howard Barker’s fable and never intended to be taken literally. It is, in fact a very “English” play and is derived from thoroughly English mores and simply references the mythic and the ancient. It has therefore been cast accordingly.’
They added: ‘We understand that some will find such an interplay between cultural reference and artistic imagination troubling. We regret that our initial public announcements about this play were not sensitive to this fact. The Print Room has long been a champion of multiculturalism and diversity in the arts in London.’