UK theater changes name of moneyman character in play after antisemitism outcry

Famed Royal Court playhouse apologizes, claiming ‘unconscious bias’ in naming of fictional world-conquering billionaire Hershel Fink in Al Smith’s Rare Earth Mettle

London's Royal Court theater in 2016 (YouTube)
London's Royal Court theater in 2016 (YouTube)

London’s famed Royal Court theater announced Saturday that the name of a billionaire character with plans for global domination in a new production set to run at the playhouse, had been changed from Hershel Fink due to “unconscious bias” against Jews.

Apologizing for “harm caused” by the moniker, the theater said that the Silicon Valley billionaire in Al Smith’s “Rare Earth Mettle” was not Jewish and that there was no reference to him being a Jew in the play.

“We are grateful to the members of the Jewish community who got in touch with the Royal Court to communicate the name of one of the characters in Rare Earth Mettle is antisemitic,” the theater said in a statement.

“For clarification, the character is not Jewish and there is no reference to being Jewish in the play. We acknowledge that this is an example of unconscious bias and we will reflect deeply on how this has happened in the coming days. We and the writer are deeply sorry for harm caused. In response to our learning the writer has changed the name, as of last night,” the statement said.

The show had come under fire for the naming of Fink, the CEO of an electric car company, likened to Elon Musk, with plans to take over the world.

“The Royal Court claims they didn’t realize ‘Hershel Fink’ was a Jewish name. Hmmm. Somehow it just sounded so right for a world-conquering billionaire,” comedian and writer David Baddiel, whose recent book “Jews Dont Count” rails against the relegation of antisemitism to second class bigotry, wrote on Twitter.

Comedian David Baddiel (YouTube screenshot)

“I’ve written a play. Everything — particularly now and particularly about ethnicity — gets relentlessly discussed. Except as regards one ethnicity apparently,” Baddiel added.

He said the incident was “a very instructive Jews Don’t Count episode.”

Director and producer Adam Lenson said on Twitter that, “casually making a Silicon Valley billionaire Jewish perpetuates antisemitic stereotypes and will cause ideological harm.”

Lenson said that the theater’s claim of “unconscious bias” did not go far enough.

“This isn’t unconscious bias, this is systemic anti-Jewish racism. The Royal Court calling it anything else is disingenuous,” Lenson tweeted. “The name isn’t antisemitic. The name Hershel Fink is just a very Jewish name. Writing a play where an evil billionaire is Jewish, and producing it and not noticing is antisemitic.”

Set in South America, Rare Earth Mettle explores the damage inflicted on the environment and indigenous communities by powerful tech companies. It was described by the Royal Court as “a brutally comic exploration of risk, delusion and power.”

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