Anti-trans activists target queer theatre company with ‘nasty’ abuse over new LGBTQ+ play

A picture of actors performing in Hive North's Jock Night

A London theatre playhouse has condemned a shocking wave of anti-LGBTQ+ hate speech directed at cast members of a new play.

Seven Dials Playhouse in London’s Covent Garden published a message shaming bigoted anti-LGBTQ+ trolls who had been harassing cast members of an upcoming production, Jock Night, after an actor with a history of supporting trans people was announced to be starring in the play.

The play stars David Paisley, Sam Goodchild, Matthew Gent, Levi Payne and George Hughes.

Theatre production company and LGBTQ+ theatre advocacy group, Hive North, which is producing the play, were inundated with abuse from anti-LGBTQ, right-wing groups and individuals.

In response, London theatre company Seven Dials Playhouse, which is hosting Jock Night, stated: “We condemn all bigotry and hate speech, particularly that which is currently being directed towards a cast member of the upcoming production, Jock Night, who has a right to live and work in an environment free from abuse and harassment.

“These views have no place at Seven Dials Playhouse. As an organisation, we stand with and support the trans community.”

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Hive North executive producer Mike Lee told PinkNews that staff members involved with the project had been deeply affected by the backlash.

“We were just inundated with comments, nasty comments just directed at the show, the actor, people suggesting that people don’t go to watch it,” Lee said.

“All the notifications are slightly anxiety-inducing,” Lee continued. “I have a full-time job that isn’t producing theatre and so whilst I’m at work, my phone is constantly going off.”

Lee said that, following the height of the harassment, venue organisations like Seven Dials Playhouse agreed to restrict comments on social media and refrained from mentioning the actor as a way to mitigate the abuse.

Following the statement from the venue, Lee said that the wave of support from the LGBTQ+ and theatre communities “filled us with lots of love”.

“Many, many allies have picked up on the fact that, in this day and age, or anytime, someone just merely putting on a play shouldn’t mean that they get online hate because they believe that trans rights are human rights.”

Jock Night receives critical acclaim

The theatre production, created by Adam Zane, sees main character Ben, who is described as a “40-something Victoria Wood fan” explore the underground clubbing scene of Manchester’s Gay Village – a world of “chemsex and jockstraps”, the play’s description reads.

Jock Night was originally produced as a theatrical soap opera, which Lee said was intended to present its main characters “across the years” and get the audience “sort of hankering to hear more about them.”

“[Adam Zane] eventually wrote a full-length version, an hour-long version that we presented in 2019.

“We wanted to bring it back, but then the pandemic hit,” Lee continued. “The play is about the after party scene, it’s about chemsex, it’s about mental health, it’s about addiction.

“And obviously, that scene requires lots of intimacy, so we didn’t think that, post-pandemic, we’d see that on stage again.”

The group managed to get a deal with Seven Dials Playhouse for a two-act version of the play, which Lee described as “brilliantly honest” and a “raw, but very funny, very northern piece of theatre”.

“Hopefully people that come and watch don’t feel judged by what we’re talking about on stage, because quite often with plays about that, it can be very tragic,” Lee said.

‘We specifically believe that trans rights are human rights’

As well as theatre production, Hive North also work on a number of projects that predominantly aim to include LGBTQ+ people in theatre and writing production.

The theatre company works with youth groups and schools to teach students about issues such as hate crime, homophobia and transphobia, which Lee noted can be “prevalent in secondary schools”.

“We’ve done that for 15 years,” he said. “It’s a great project because we’ve seen, over the years that we’ve done it, when we return to the schools, we’ve seen tangible changes in the behaviour of students.

“When we are able to go in year on year and sort of do it for the same year group as they get older – so, say, Year Nines and then the next set of Year Nines – it slowly filters through the school.”

Throughout its lifespan, Hive North’s main goal has been to promote LGBTQ+ equity in society through theatre production, which Lee said has always included and will always include trans people.

“We specifically believe that trans rights are human rights. And we believe that, as a community, all of us have the right to live the way we feel fit,” Lee continued.

“It’s really important to us that people are able to be authentic in the way that they live their life.

“I grew up not seeing LGBTQ+ people that much on TV, and when they did, it was a thing for someone to point out. My mum pointed out when Zoe Tate had that lesbian kiss on Emmerdale, that it would be okay if any of her children were gay.

“Now, that was nice of her to say, but wouldn’t it have been nicer if I was just seeing that all the time and knew that she would feel that? And so we want to present voices that are authentic and that tell the stories that matter to our community.”

Jock Night will premiere on 9 October 2023 at the Seven Dials Playhouse.

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