This afternoon, the producers of Hedwig and the Angry Inch announced a postponement of their January season.
The postponement comes in response to casting concerns raised by the LGBTQIA+ community. Representation for gender-non-conforming, nonbinary, and transgender performers is already incredibly limited within the realms of musical theatre, and fans called into question why Hugh Sheridan was cast in the title role.
Although the show was written by a cisgender male (who went on to originate the role), much discourse around the trans identity of Hedwig has developed since its 1998 premiere. The lead character is a genderqueer performer, who reveals she was coerced into medically transitioning in order to leave Socialist Germany. The show explores gender identity and challenges the oppressive forces of the binary system, pushing for expression of one’s true self rather than societal expectations of gender.
LGBTQIA+ artists and allies submitted an open letter to the producers of the show highlighting a lack of diverse and queer representation within the production as a whole, as well as urging them to reconsider casting decisions.
Producers released the following statement in response:
In light of recent community conversations and concerns, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the 2021 Sydney Festival season of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. In casting Hedwig we auditioned a wide, diverse range of performers and no one from any background was excluded from this process, and were encouraged.
We wish to assure the Trans and LGBTQIA+ community that the issues raised are respected and taken very seriously. We appreciate your patience in giving us time to properly consider these concerns and respond accordingly.
Please note that comments or actions of any individual, including by way of any personal social media account, should not be taken as the views of the producer, or as endorsed by the producer. We do not believe in censoring legitimate conversation and will not condone silencing.
Further announcements about casting and production dates will be forthcoming. Current ticket holders will be contacted shortly.
Sydney Festival said the following:
The producers of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH have announced postponement of the production to a later date.
All ticket holders will be refunded in full and automatically within the next five working days.
The values of equality and inclusivity have long guided the work of Sydney Festival. With these values in mind, the Festival supports the producer’s decision to postpone the January season of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH as they respond to issues raised around casting in the production.
Sydney Festival is an important platform, and we have a responsibility to use this platform in a way that is beneficial to all members of our community. We also recognise our responsibility to actively address concerns that are not in alignment with our values.
Diversity of representation is critically important to our industry — Australia is home to a cadre of brilliant performers from all backgrounds whose work Sydney Festival aims to showcase and celebrate.
Sydney Festival remains committed to ensuring it provides an open, welcoming and safe platform for all artists, technicians, staff and audiences.
This article is being updated as more information is received