London’s historic Old Vic Theatre has abruptly cancelled a production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods helmed by actor and director Terry Gilliam after venue staff voiced their displeasure with the Monty Python legend’s recent recommendation of Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special, The Closer.
Gilliam voiced his support for Chappelle’s latest work on October 14th, taking to his Facebook page to tell his fans and followers, “I’m encouraging all of you to watch Dave Chappelle’s new show, The Closer, on Netflix.”
“To me, he’s the greatest standup comedian alive today: incredibly intelligent, socially aware, dangerously provocative, and gut-wrenchingly funny,” Gilliam explained. “There is a storm brewing over Netflix’s support for the show. I’d love to hear your opinions.”
Though brief and encouraging of debate between both supporters and critics of Chappelle, Gilliam’s innocuous comment sparked backlash amongst Old Vic staff, which in turn led to the cancellation of his upcoming production.
In a brief statement that side-stepped the actual explanation for the show’s cancellation, the Old Vic told theater news outlet The Stage, “Ahead of any season announcement, senior management at the Old Vic would meet with the directors who are programmed to work in the season as a matter of course to discuss our culture and values. This happened with the co-directors of Into the Woods, Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman.”
Upset staff members also reportedly took issue with Gilliam’s past criticisms of the #MeToo movement, which he had described as a “witch hunt” in which “there were a lot of people, decent people, or mildly irritating people, who were getting hammered.”
“I hate Harvey,” the actor told UK news outlet The Independent in January 2020. “I had to work with him and I know the abuse, but I don’t want people saying that all men… Because on [the 1991 film] Fisher King, two producers were women. One was a really good producer, and the other was a neurotic b—h. It wasn’t about their sex. It was about the position of power and how people use it.”
Notably, the Old Vic found itself the center of its own #MeToo controversy after it was discovered that Kevin Spacey, who served as the theater’s artistic director from 2003 to 2015, had used his position to enact routine sexual abuse on young male actors.
Though Gilliam himself could not be reached for comment, John Berry, whose production company Scenario Two holds the rights for Into The Woods, told UK news outlet The Times that his team was “focusing on finding a new home for this show.”
“These things happen,” he admitted. “It’s not the first change of plan for a West End show or the last, and current times everywhere are unpredictable.”
However, in a brief bit of optimism, Berry then promised fans that “The designs and vision for the show is vintage Gilliam.”
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