A theater group at the University of Bristol was recently forced to cancel its production of Aida amidst complaints that it used mostly white actors to portray characters who are African and Egyptian. This led to accusations of cultural appropriation and “white-washing” by some.
One student complained, “It’s quite simple, really: if you are going to put on a production set in a particular place with a particular cultural context, then you need to reflect that with the ethnicity of actors.”
Aida centers around an Ethiopian princess who is held prisoner in Egypt, where she serves as a slave before falling in love with an Egyptian general. The theater said in a statement:
It is with great sadness that we are announcing the cancellation of Aida in this year’s MTB show calendar. This show that was voted in by our members has since caused controversy in terms of racial diversity. . . .It is a great shame that we have had to cancel this show as, of course, we would not want to cause offence in any way, and that was certainly never our intention. Our intention was to tell this story, one which surely is better heard than not performed at all.
Watch Broadway production of “Written in the Stars,” written by Elton John & Tim Rice for Aida: