Royal Court theatre in London changes character's Jewish name

Royal Court theatre in London changes billionaire character’s Jewish name from Hershel Fink to Henry Finn in new play after being accused of ‘unconscious bias’ and anti-Semitism

  •  Royal Court Theatre has changed the Jewish name of a character in a new play
  • Will change name of Hershel Fink who features in the new play Rare Earth Mettle
  • Theatre admitted naming of the character was an example of ‘unconscious bias’

The Royal Court Theatre has apologised and changed the Jewish name of a character in a new play after being accused of ‘perpetuating an anti-Semitic stereotype’.

The theatre in London’s West End said it would be changing the name of the Silicon Valley billionaire character named Hershel Fink, who features in the new play Rare Earth Mettle by Al Smith, to Henry Finn.

Fink, who is the CEO of an electric car company and has been compared to Elon Musk, is not Jewish and there is no reference to him being Jewish in the show, the theatre have said.       

However, the Royal Court admitted the naming of the character was an example of ‘unconscious bias’ and it will be changed.  

The Royal Court Theatre has apologised and changed the name of a character in a new play Rare Earth Mettle

 The theatre in London’s West End admitted the naming of the character was an example of ‘unconscious bias’ and it will be changed

A Royal Court Theatres spokesperson said: ‘The Royal Court Theatre apologises unreservedly for this situation. It was a mistake, it shouldn’t have happened, and we are sorry it did.

‘We stand in solidarity with our Jewish staff, artists, audiences and friends and are grateful to those who got in touch to communicate that the character named Hershel Fink was perpetuating an antisemitic stereotype. 

‘In response, the writer has decided to change the name to Henry Finn – this will be effective from the first performances next week, and we shall reprint all communications and the play text with this change.

‘Now we are looking towards the dialogue that will help us reflect on the process that enabled the name to remain and what is missing in our systems that would have mitigated this unnecessary harm. 

‘Our anti-racism work is current and ongoing, and this experience proves once again how necessary and wide that work must be. We will work hard now in the hope of building trust and confidence within our Jewish community.’

Following the move, comedian, author and screenwriter David Baddiel took to Twitter to write: ‘Apparently @royalcourt claim they didn’t realise ‘Hershel Fink’ was a Jewish name. Hmm. Somehow it just sounded so right for a world conquering billionaire.

‘I’ve written a play. Everything – particularly now and particularly about ethnicity – gets relentlessly discussed. Except as regards one ethnicity apparently. 

‘Anyway. To be fair @royalcourt have acknowledged their unconscious bias here and changed the name. It’s still a very instructive Jews Don’t Count episode.’

David Baddiel said ‘everything – particularly now and particularly about ethnicity – gets relentlessly discussed’ during the creation of play

 The comedian, screenwriter and author took to Twitter to share this thoughts on the move

And theatre director Adam Lenson said: ‘So, Al Smith at The Royal Court has taken a character clearly based on Elon Musk and when fictionalising him has given him an obviously Jewish name. 

‘Casually making a Silicon Valley billionaire Jewish perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotypes and will cause ideological harm.’

The new play centres around a leading doctor who travels to Bolivia to solve the British mental health crisis and advance her career.

She is joined there by a Silicon Valley billionaire who believes he can save the world building affordable electric cars.

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