A theatre company has drawn heavy criticism for advertising for a “white male actor” to play the part of Jesus in a central London passion play.
Critics have accused the company of ignoring the historical reality that Jesus was Palestinian.
The Winterhshall Charitable Company, which will stage the passion in Trafalgar Square on Good Friday, did not break the law by placing the advertisement, as it is permitted to specify the appearance of an actor. In practice, however, most theatre companies no longer specify actors’ ethnicity.
Producer Peter Hutley drew further accusations of historical ignorance after he responded to criticism by saying that “Jesus was white”. He said that if he were recruiting an actor to play a black character, he would specify the need for applicants to be black.
Hutley went on to say that he wanted “a cast that is appropriate to Trafalgar Square in 2010. When we perform it in a black prison in Alabama or in Uganda we will have casts appropriate to the area”.
The comment is likely to trigger even more criticism, as it appears to ignore London’s multiracial nature.
The playwright Bonnie Greer expressed her shock at the advertisement, telling the Daily Telegraph, “I thought we had got over the idea that Jesus always had to be a tall, white man with blue eyes and long, blond hair”.
She added that, “Jesus was almost certainly a Palestinian by descent and precisely the kind of man that a lot of people would have a problem admitting into the country these days".