A play that explores the radicalisation of young people and the motives of those joining Isis has been cancelled weeks before its first performance.
Homegrown, by the National Youth Theatre (NYT), is an immersive piece where the audience would have walked along a school corridor to overhear conversations between pupils.
However, the production has now been cancelled with the official NYT statement citing “quality reasons” as the motivation.
It read: “The production of Homegrown will no longer go ahead. After some consideration, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot be sufficiently sure of meeting all of our aims to the standards we set and which our members and audiences have come to expect.”
Its troubled history had already seen the play lose its original venue – Raine’s Foundation School in Bethnal Green – after it was decided it was “not appropriate” to perform the piece less than a mile from Bethnal Green Academy, which was attended by the three girls who recently travelled to Syria to become so-called Jihadi brides - Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase.
In a statement, a Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said: “Our only involvement with the National Youth Theatre was when they approached Raine’s Foundation School in June with a request to use the school as a venue for the play.
“Once the school became aware of the themes of the play, it was decided it was not appropriate to rent their premises. The news of the missing school girls has had a huge emotional impact on their families and friends, as well as the entire local community."
A fresh venue was found – UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage – before the NYT pulled the plug, a decision questioned by the team producing the play.
Director Nadia Latif and playwright Omar El-Khairy told The Guardian they could not see any sense in cancelling the show and cited pressure from external authorities and the police – rather than quality issues – as the probable cause of its demise.
Nadia said: “There must have been some extraordinary external pressure to cancel the production – to justify that emotional trauma on a cast of 112 young people.
“This show was about having an intelligent conversation around an issue that has hysteria attached, and instead voices have been silenced with no explanation and without the content ever being seen because of this landscape of fear that we live in.”
El-Omar added: “Voices have been silenced here, there is no doubts about that and I just feel like in order to make the decision to cancel it, something very extreme must have been happened.”