The Royal Court theatre has shelved its planned production of Rita, Sue and Bob Too after the Hlcarpenter.com revealed its original co-director Max Stafford-Clark had been forced to step down after allegations of sexual harassment.
The play, which tells the story of two teenage girls who have a sexual relationship with an older married man, has been on a UK tour and was due to run at the Sloane Square venue in January.
A joint statement from the theatre and the production company Out of Joint said running Rita, Sue and Bob Too would be “highly conflictual”.
Royal Court’s artistic director, Vicky Featherstone, has been a leading figure in the drive to combat sexual harassment in the industry, hosting a series of open meetings and putting in place a code of conduct to prevent abuses of power.
The statement read: “The departure of Max Stafford-Clark from Out of Joint and the recent allegations in the media have coincided with Royal Court’s response to the spotlight on our industry and the rigorous interrogation of our own practices.
“On our stage we recently heard 150 stories of sexual harassment and abuse and therefore the staging of this work, with its themes of grooming and abuses of power on young women, on that same stage now feels highly conflictual.”
The show is staged by Out of Joint, which was founded by Stafford-Clark, who directed the seminal Andrea Dunbar play while he was Royal Court’s artistic director in 1982.
He was forced out of the role of co-director early in rehearsals for the new production, which started its run at the Bolton Octagon, and toured 10 venues in the autumn.
Royal Court said it was “incredibly proud” of the collaboration with Out of Joint, which had made the show’s tour possible.
It added: “Out of Joint is now a company in transition, facing its future, a future which the Royal Court wholeheartedly supports and looks forward to being part of through the current development of a new co-commission.”
The UK tour of the production ends in February.
A source from Out of Joint said it had been a very difficult and sad decision for all involved to axe the show but it was the right thing to do: “We support Vicky Featherstone and the Royal Court 100% in their response to the recent allegations in the media and understand that the Royal Court needs to be a safe space. We are proud of the show, written by a woman and directed by a woman, as it continues to be seen around the country.”