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Royal Court Theatre apologises and changes billionaire Jewish character’s name in anti-Semitism row amid David Baddiel criticism

David Baddiel said it’s important to ‘relentless discuss everything’ including ethnicity when writing a play (Picture: Getty Images)

The Royal Court Theatre has issued an apology and agreed to change the name of a Jewish character’s name in a play after being accused of stereotyping and anti-Semitism. 

Comedian David Baddiel was among the figures who have led criticism of a billionaire character in Al Smith’s West End play, Rare Earth Mettle, being called Hershel Fink. 

However, after the production was slammed for perpetuating Jewish stereotypes, the character has now been renamed Henry Finn. 

The theatre also said that 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. They went on to acknowledge that it was the result of ‘unconscious bias’ and would ‘deeply reflect’ on the issue.

Addressing the controversy, 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.’ 

The Royal Court said the character’s name was a moment of ‘unconscious bias’ (Picture: @royalcourt, Twitter)

They added: ‘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.’ 

Comedian and screenwriter Baddiel reacted to the news and tweeted: ‘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.’ 

He added: ‘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.’ 

Theatre director Adam Lenson joined in with the criticism and 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.’ 

Rare Earth Mettle focuses on a leading doctor who travels to Bolivia to solve the British mental health crisis and advance her career. She is joined by Silicon Valley billionaire, Henry Finn, who believes he can save the world by building affordable electric cars.

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