London’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ Production Faces Racial Abuse

The London production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” directed by Jamie Lloyd and starring Tom Holland and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, has been targeted with significant racial abuse online. This backlash follows the casting announcement, prompting the Jamie Lloyd Company to issue a strong statement condemning the harassment and affirming their support for the cast.

Curiosity enough, the first performance of “Romeo and Juliet” is widely thought to have taken place in 1595, rather than 1597, and it likely premiered at the Curtain Theater in London, not the Theatre. This date and location reflect the consensus among scholars and historians. The leading roles of Romeo and Juliet in early performances were indeed performed by members of Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Richard Burbage, a prominent member of the troupe known for his dramatic roles, is believed to have played Romeo. However, there is no specific historical record confirming Robert Goffe as Juliet. It’s important to note that during Shakespeare’s time, female roles were played by young boys or men, as women were not permitted to perform on stage. That’s not stopping the racial and misogynistic abuse though, as ignorants claim Juliet, a made up character, was in fact a white italian woman.

Statement from the Jamie Lloyd Company

On April 5, 2024, the Jamie Lloyd Company responded to the abuse with a public statement, emphasizing their commitment to a creative environment free from harassment. The company stressed that the racial abuse directed at an unnamed cast member was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. Their message highlighted the importance of kindness, joy, and compassion in their production and reaffirmed their dedication to supporting and protecting their team.

Background on the Issue

Tom Holland, known for his role in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, from “Sex Education,” were announced as the leads in this contemporary take on the classic play. Despite the production’s sold-out run scheduled from May 23 through August 3 at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre, the casting choice sparked a wave of online racial abuse.

Industry-Wide Concerns

This incident aligns with broader issues within the entertainment industry regarding racism and harassment. A 2021 survey revealed significant experiences of racist stereotyping and behavior in Britain’s acting and casting processes. Additionally, recent controversies, such as the backlash against proposed “Black Out” performances of “Slave Play” in London’s West End, underscore the ongoing challenges actors of color face.

Wrapping Up

The racial abuse targeting the cast of “Romeo & Juliet” is a stark reminder of the racism that persists within the arts and broader society. The Jamie Lloyd Company’s firm stance against this behavior underscores the industry’s need for change and the importance of supporting diversity and inclusion in all creative endeavors. For ongoing coverage of this issue and more, visit

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