In many ways, the UK theatrical community has generally been generous towards minorities, far more so than the country in general or sport, where both football and cricket have spent generations attempting to “kick it out” with mixed results.

It therefore came as a shock to receive a recent release from the Jamie Lloyd Company denouncing racist attacks on an unnamed performer in their upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet.

Although it was powerful, the statement printed in full below was vague and somewhat strangely worded.

Following the announcement of our Romeo & Juliet cast, there has been a barrage of deplorable racial abuse online directed towards a member of our company.

This must stop.

We are working with a remarkable group of artists. We insist that they are free to create work without facing online harassment.

We will continue to support and protect everyone in our company at all costs. Any abuse will not be tolerated and will be reported.

Bullying and harassment have no place online, in our industry or in our wider communities.

Our rehearsal room is full of joy, compassion and kindness. We celebrate the extraordinary talent of our incredible collaborators. The Romeo & Juliet community will continue to rehearse with generosity and love, and focus on the creation of our production.

More recently, it has been revealed that the victim of the abuse is the lady cast as Juliet, Francesca Amewudah-Rivers, opposite Tom (Spiderman) Holland. One has to feel for a young performer at the start of her career, who is preparing to make her West End debut in a high-profile production.

Her enthusiasm a few short weeks ago was obvious. “I'm so grateful to be making my West End debut as Juliet with The Jamie Lloyd Company. It's a dream to be joining this team of incredible artists with Jamie at the helm. I'm excited to bring a fresh energy to this story alongside Tom, and to welcome new audiences to the theatre.”

The concentration should be nothing but the talent that persuaded Jamie Lloyd that the woman he described as “an exceptional young artist” was the perfect actor to take on this iconic role.

Understandably, there has subsequently been a great deal of media coverage and, on Wednesday, we learned that a letter in solidarity has been issued by 883 signatories, the majority of whom are apparently black female and non-binary actors.

Given more time, there can be little doubt that many more actors and others working in the theatre with every racial background would be only too happy to sign the letter and support both the actress and the war on racism.

In the longer term, we have to hope that this is not the tip of an extremely nasty iceberg, since social media has made it very easy for those with extreme views to express them, however hurtful that might be to their victims.

There can be no doubt that such racial slurs would constitute a hate crime, and one wonders whether the Metropolitan Police are already on the case. Society would benefit greatly from a few well-publicised prosecutions, making those who feel that they are safe in Internet anonymity think again.

Some readers might struggle to reconcile this story with one that was doing the rounds only a few weeks ago.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently showed unexpected interest in our favourite artform when he waded in to criticise the producers of Jeremy O Harris’s Slave Play for their decision to designate two performances as Black Out events. These are performances at which the playwright hoped that the audience would largely be “all-black-identifying”. The PM recently also somewhat belatedly called out “racist” comments by his party’s largest donor, Frank Hester.

In that context, it seems disappointing that neither Sunak nor invisible Culture Secretary Lucy Fraser has seen fit to criticise the perpetrators of this hate crime and demand action from the authorities to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.

While the long-term goal must be to stamp out racism in all aspects of life in this country, especially the theatre, more immediately, we must all wish Francesca Amewudah-Rivers a metaphorical broken leg and trust that this role is the start of a long and rewarding theatrical career.