Actor loses case in The Color Purple gay row

Published: 18 February 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

Case lost at tribunal: Seyi Omooba

An actor who was sacked following a social media post which attacked homosexuality has lost her case at an employment tribunal in which she sued a Midlands theatre and her former agent.

Seyi Omooba sued Leicester’s Curve and Global Artists for £128,000 for discrimination, harassment and breach of contract.

She had been due to play the lead character Celie, often depicted as being in a lesbian relationship, in Curve’s co-production with Birmingham Hippodrome of the musical.

But the 26-year-old was replaced after a social media post dating from 2014 was reposted on Twitter. It was said to have caused “significant and widely expressed concerns”. Her original Facebook post said she did not believe people could be born gay and that homosexuality was not “right”.

In a statement Curve’s chief executive Chris Stafford and artistic director Nikolai Foster welcomed the tribunal’s ruling.

“Seyi Omooba accepted a lesbian part in our production of The Color Purple knowing full well she would refuse to play this iconic gay role as homosexual. We believe the case had no merit from the outset and should never have been brought to the tribunal.

“It has been a hugely challenging and upsetting time for all of us at Curve, especially as our industry is fighting for its survival, and we would like to thank everyone who has supported us over the past 20 months. In particular, we would like to thank our extraordinary The Color Purple company—a team of talented, passionate and caring individuals who did not allow this case to impact on making the most remarkable show led by the incomparable T'Shan Williams.

“We would also like to pay tribute to the wonderful support we have received from the writers of the musical, Marsha Norman, Brenda Russell, Stephen Bray and the late Allee Willis, and our thanks to the Broadway producer of the musical, Scott Sanders.

“Our heartfelt thanks also to Steve Spiegel from Theatrical Rights Worldwide who has been a passionate supporter of our case from day one and we owe so much to him.

“And, of course, deepest gratitude to Alice Walker; our fight was in the name of Curve but also to protect the integrity of the character of Celie—who was based on Alice's grandmother Rachel—and all other Celies in our world.

“We now look forward to drawing a line under this painful chapter and focusing our energies on how we rebuild our theatre after the pandemic.”