A Sydney production of cult queer classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Hugh Sheridan is on hold after backlash over the actor’s casting in the role.
Sheridan was to play the lead role of Hedwig in the rock musical. The character is a queer punk musician who undergoes a botched gender reassignment operation in order to escape East Germany.
John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask originally wrote the cult musical for the stage in 1998. The new Australian production, at the Enmore Theatre, was part of next year’s Sydney Festival from January 6 to 26.
However recently formed group Queer Artists Alliance penned an open letter to the festival, the show’s producers and Sheridan.
The group expressed sadness and disappointment that trans performers “are still fighting for equal opportunities and representation.”
“The choice to cast a cisgender male as a transgender character is offensive and damaging to the trans community. [It] continues to cause genuine distress and frustration amongst trans and gender non-conforming performers across Australia.
“It is unquestionable Hugh is a talented and deserving actor. [However] it is not appropriate for a cisgender actor to be the gatekeeper of a trans story.
“We understand the box office appeal in having a famous and commercially successful actor such as Hugh Sheridan headlining the show.
“Our problem is that marginalised groups have been excluded from participating in a significant opportunity to tell our story because we are not as ‘well-known’ or may not ‘sell enough tickets’.”
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Producers postpone Hedwig and the Angry Inch stage production
On Tuesday, the show’s producers made the “difficult” decision to postpone the show after “recent community conversations and concerns”.
“In casting Hedwig we auditioned a wide, diverse range of performers,” they said in a statement.
“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.”
Sydney Festival organisers also explained “values of equality and inclusivity had long guided” their work.
“With these values in mind, the festival supports the producer’s decision to postpone the [show] as they respond to issues raised around casting in the production,” they said.
The organisers also said “diversity of representation is critically important to our industry.”
“Sydney Festival remains committed to providing an open, welcoming and safe platform for all artists, technicians, staff and audiences.”
The festival will contact any patrons with tickets to the show and provide information about its future.
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