Idris Elba has responded to claims that two female former writers on his play “Tree” have not been acknowledged for their work and were pushed off the project.
Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley published a lengthy statement on Tuesday detailing their complaints about being removed from “Tree,” and not being credited as the producers reworked their original ideas.
The “Luther” star responded with a lengthy statement of his own, Wednesday, the same day the play premiered at the Manchester International Festival. Elba and director Kwame Kwei-Armah are credited as its creators,
Elba refuted the writers’ claims and said the situation was “frustrating” in a statement posted on Twitter. “We wanted to offer an opportunity to support these new writers while creating a piece of work and scale and to a director’s vision,” he said. “The outcome is an accusation of plagiarism and discrimination.”
The play blends drama, music, and dance, and follows one man’s journey into the heart of contemporary South Africa.
All parties agree that Elba’s “mi Mandela” album was the starting point for the stage play, but thereafter the two sides are at loggerheads. Elba and the producers said the play took a different direction after Allen-Martin and Henley’s early work on it.
“As new ambitions started to be proposed as the jumping off point for development, Tori & Sarah decided they didn’t want to pursue the early thoughts and declined to work any further on the project,” Elba said. “We were left without any writers and had to start work very quickly, which is our contractual right as beholder of the original idea, the album.”
Elba added that Allen-Martin and Henley are acknowledged in the play’s program.
Allen-Martin and Henley’s post was entitled “Tree. A Story of Gender and Power in Theatre.” They discuss in detail the genesis of the project, it getting commissioned, Kwei-Armah coming on board, and their attempts to get recognition for their work.
They acknowledged that “moving the original writers off a project isn’t unusual and can be done professionally and amicably,” but added “the levels of intimidation and disrespect we faced were totally unacceptable, soul-destroying and as we’ve since heard — not uncommon for up and coming theatre writers, particularly female ones.”
There was more drama as “Tree” launched in Manchester. The performance was halted after a member of the audience, many of whom were standing, collapsed. The BBC reports Elba made sure she received medical assistance and the woman in question was fine.
The play is a co-production between Manchester International Festival, Young Vic and Elba’s Green Door Pictures, in association with Eleanor Lloyd Productions, Anthology Theatre, Eilene Davidson Productions, and Ragovoy Entertainment.
Related: Idris Elba out and about
Idris Elba out and about
Idris Elba out and about
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 10: Actor Idris Elba speaks to the media at the premiere of 'The Mountain Between Us' during the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 10, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by J. Countess/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 30: Idris Elba attends 'The Dark Tower' photocall at the Whitby Hotel on July 30, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 08: Idris Elba attends the UK premiere for '100 Streets' on November 8, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Marsland/Mike Marsland/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09: Idris Elba (L) and Sabrina Dhowre attend Idris Elba's Christmas Party at Kadie's Cocktail Bar & Club on December 9, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 06: Actor Idris Elba arrives for the 'Molly's Game UK film premiere in London, United Kingdom on December 06, 2017. (Photo by Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 01: Director Idris Elba attends the 'Yardie' red carpet arrivals during the Sundance Film Festival at Picturehouse Central on June 1, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 19: Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre arrive at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle before the wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Gareth Fuller - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 28: In this handout provided by FIA Formula E, Actor Idris Elba drives the Formula E track car. during the Paris E-Prix in the Paris ePrix, Round 8 of the 2017/18 FIA ABB Formula E Series at Circuit des Invalides on April 28, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Sam Bloxham - Handout/FIA Formula E via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 05: Actor Idris Elba arrives on the red carpet for the Santos de Cartier Watch Launch at Pier 48 on April 5, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images)
BERLINALE, BERLIN, GERMANY - 2018/02/22: Idris Elba attends the 'Yardie' press conference during the 68th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Grand Hyatt Hotel. (Photo by Beata Siewicz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 21: Idris Elba attends as The House of Remy Martin celebrates the APEX Social Club at the WanderLuxxe House with Common and Friends on January 21, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Remy Martin)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba attend the 'Molly's Game' UK premiere at Vue West End on December 6, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14:Idris Elba attends Ferrari: Under the Skin hosted by Deyan Sudjic and Alice Black, Directors of the Design Museum, and Dylan Jones, Editor of GQ at the Design Museum on November 14, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Kate Winslet and Idris Elba during filming of the Graham Norton Show at the London Studios, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening. (Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 10: Actor Idris Elba (R) and guest attend the premiere of 'The Mountain Between Us' during the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 10, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by J. Countess/WireImage)
LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 561 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actor Idris Elba talks with host Seth Meyers during an interview on August 1, 2017 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 31: Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba attend 'The Dark Tower' New York Premiere on July 31, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)