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Russian State Opera show at Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells cancelled over war with Ukraine


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A Kent theatre and an opera company linked to Russia have agreed that a show due to take place later this month should be cancelled because of the war with Ukraine.

A production of Madam Butterfly by the Russian State Opera was scheduled to take place at Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall on March 17.

Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells. Picture: Google Street View
Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells. Picture: Google Street View

But protests over the show in the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have grown, led by a Conservative councillor who argued the show should not go on.

Tunbridge Wells borough councillor, Sean Holden, had called on the theatre, which gets hundreds of thousands of pounds of subsidy from the council, to make a stand.

After days of talks, the council and the company issued a joint statement today saying the production, along with a second show due to take place in November, would not now go ahead.

In a statement, the two said: "It has been mutually agreed between Amande Concerts Limited and The Assembly Hall Theatre to cancel the planned performances of Madam Butterfly on March 17 and the Sleeping Beauty on November 22.

"Anyone holding a ticket for either performance will be contacted as soon as possible to arrange a refund on their purchase.

Cllr Sean Holden
Cllr Sean Holden

"Our thoughts are with all affected by the ongoing events in the Ukraine, and we are looking to as soon as possible light up the theatre in blue and yellow to show our support."

The production company had said that its status has been misunderstood and that it is UK-based.

Several other theatres, including the Royal Opera House, have already cancelled performances from Russian groups, as have several regional theatres.

Cllr Holden had started an online debate with all Tunbridge Wells councillors to put pressure on the theatre to cancel the show.

However, William Henson, the council’s chief executive, sought to play down the row, emphasising that the group was not Russian.

In an email to all councillors, he circulated a statement from the group Amande Concerts, which delivers the shows, in which it said it was unconnected with the Russian state and the production company was registered in the UK.

Cllr Holden said in an email: “The Champion's League Final football match has been taken out of Moscow and the Russian Formula One Grand Prix has been axed.

"The Russian people need to understand, in every way, the consequences of the murderous action of their government.”

He added: “This council should have the nerve and the moral courage to stand on the authority of the half million a year or more with which taxpayers prop up this theatre and have the show cancelled.”

The production company appeared to be aware of sensitivities about the show.

On the ticket-booking website, it said the title of the show had been renamed at the request of the producer to "Amande Concerts presents: Madam Butterfly."

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