Oluwaseyi Omooba, who was due to play the lead role of Celie in Leicester’s Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome’s co-production of the Broadway musical of The Color Purple, was fired in 2019 before her run began for remarks in a Facebook post in which she said homosexuality is unnatural and not “right”. Omooba then sued for breach of contract against the Curve Theatre in Leicester and her former agents, Michael Garrett Associates.
On Wednesday, Omooba’s lawsuits were rejected, the BBC reports: “The panel dismissed her suggestion that her sacking by the theatre amounted to discrimination against her religious beliefs. In a written judgement, it concluded it was ‘the effect of the adverse publicity from [the 2014 post’s] retweet, without modification or explanation, on the cohesion of the cast, the audience’s reception, the reputation of the producers and “the good standing and commercial success” of the production, that were the reasons why she was dismissed.’ On the harassment claim, it said: ‘In the view of the tribunal Mr Stafford [Chris Stafford, chief executive of Leicester Theatre Trust] did not have the purpose of violating the claimant’s dignity or creating an intimidating or humiliating environment for her. His purpose was to save the production.'”
The court also rejected Omooba’s claim that she would have refused the role had she known Celie was to be interpreted as a lesbian, writing, “She had taken part in a similar production, she had the script, and knowing that a lesbian relationship was at least one interpretation, she should have considered much earlier whether a red line was to be crossed.”
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The Curve Theatre released a statement following the verdict: “Seyi Omooba accepted a lesbian part in our production of THE COLOR PURPLE knowing full well she would refuse to play this iconic gay role as homosexual. We believe the case had no merit from the outset, and should never have been brought to the tribunal.”
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