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Sevenoaks panto producer blasts caller who said there were 'too many black people' in Sleeping Beauty show

An open letter has shamed a caller who phoned a box office complaining the Sevenoaks panto featured 'too many black people.'

Rather than cowering in shock producers Jamie Wilson and Simon Cossons put pen to paper to hit back at the claims from a man they are calling 'Mr Smith, of somewhere in Sevenoaks.'

The story began when staff at the town's Stag Theatre took the call from Mr Smith, after he'd read about the Sleeping Beauty production in a magazine.

Sevenoaks panto cast
Sevenoaks panto cast

After being shocked by his complaint, they tried to reassure him the show featured a mix of actors from all backgrounds.

His reaction was: "Yes, but there are still five of them."

The panto stars Ricky Norwood, best known for his role as Fatboy in EastEnders and pop trio Cleopatra.

Mr Smith left his name and asked for someone to respond and producers turned tables on him asking "How many black people are too many?

The letter added: "This is the Stag's eighth year of professional pantomime, and it happens that we’ve never had an ‘all white’ cast of principals in a pantomime.

"We are proud to say that our diverse mix of casting has previously included Michelle Gayle, Nate James, Andy Abraham, Ben Ofoedu, and Jasette Amos, and this year Ricky Norwood, and the three sisters from Cleopatra.

"All talented performers and good friends. But now you’ve got us thinking, and we need some advice. Is one black performer ok? Two? Is it just five that tips you over the edge?"

Tongue in cheek, they also warned Mr Smith there was the chance some of the young dancers might not be white.

Ricky Norwood at the Stag Theatre Sevenoaks
Ricky Norwood at the Stag Theatre Sevenoaks

"Should we tell them they can’t be in the panto now, or can we just split them up, so we don’t have more than one black girl on stage at any one time? What will your complaint say to those young girls, Mr Smith? How should we explain to them that no-one has ever complained about having too many white actors in the pantomime?

"We need some clarification from you on what the maximum allowable quota is, before we proceed."

Mr Wilson, who runs the company Those Magic Beans, also queried whether he should run a check for homosexual performers who might make up the cast with Mr Smith by now taking the turn of the panto villain.

"Mr Smith, you mentioned you felt our cast is not representative of Sevenoaks. How would you like us to represent Sevenoaks? All the 'middle aged bankers' are too busy with the daily commute to take five weeks out to star in panto, so we’ve had to make do with Ricky Norwood, who as well as spending six years playing one of the best loved characters in the biggest soaps on UK television [EastEnders] has spent years in live theatre, with credits including the Royal National Theatre and a West End musical."

The panto also features pop trio Cleopatra, who have supported the Spice Girls and Madonna, and Jasette Amos, who has performed in front of David Cameron and Prince Charles.

Jamie Wilson, panto organiser, with former Sevenoaks panto starts Ben Ofoedu (left) and Graham Cole at the Mayor of Sevenoaks’ Cocktail Party. Pic Russell Harper Photography
Jamie Wilson, panto organiser, with former Sevenoaks panto starts Ben Ofoedu (left) and Graham Cole at the Mayor of Sevenoaks’ Cocktail Party. Pic Russell Harper Photography

Back to the letter, which revealed: "Casting a baddie was tricky, Sevenoaks wise, Maybe it would have been best to find a ‘little old lady.'

"But they can’t cope with the choreography, and they never remember their lines. We’re stuck with Jasette Amos, who is returning for her fourth Sevenoaks Panto, and up to now has felt welcomed and loved by the town.

"I’m worried Mr Smith - next year we might do Snow White. How many dwarfs would be representative of Sevenoaks? Surely not seven, as you hardly ever see one in the Chequers?

"This year’s pantomime is Sleeping Beauty. It isn’t actually set in Sevenoaks, so it hadn’t occurred to us to try and ‘represent’ the town in our casting. Our aim has been to work with the most talented performers we can find."

And, finally, came the moral of the tale: "Luckily, so far, we’re grateful to the 9,000 people have booked their tickets for Sleeping Beauty. I understand you told the box office you wouldn’t be booking your tickets Mr Smith.

"And we think that’s probably for the best."

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