Idris Elba has responded to accusations of plagiarism and discrimination by two writers who worked on his new stage play Tree, which premiered today at the Manchester International Festival in the UK.
The two female writers, Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley, claimed in a blog post earlier this week that they were shut out after working on the play for four years and suffered “intimidation and disrespect” during the process. The play is credited to Elba and writer-producer Kwame Kwei-Armah, who is currently artistic director of London’s Young Vic theatre.
Today, Elba posted a message on Twitter in which he explained his side of the story and expressed “frustration” over the accusation. The Wire star said Allen-Martin and Henley are acknowledged in the programme for being on the “original journey” of the drama and that he will continue to support “new, emerging and diverse talent”.
“We wanted to offer an opportunity to support these new writers while creating a piece of work of scale and to a director’s vision,” he wrote.
“Tori and Sarah decided they didn’t want to pursue the early thoughts and declined to work any further on the project. This is not uncommon in the development process. They expressed their reasoning and we respected their decision. We were left without any writers and had to start work very quickly.”
“The outcome is an accusation of plagiarism and discrimination. However frustrating this has been for all, we will continue to offer opportunities and to support the next generation of writers and talent.”
The Tree blends drama, music and dance and according to its synopsis “follows a man’s journey into the heart and soul of contemporary South Africa.”