Idris Elba responded to the claims of two female writers that they were not acknowledged for their contributions to his play Tree, calling the accusations “frustrating.”
“We wanted to offer an opportunity to support these new writers while creating a piece of work and scale and to a director’s vision,” Elba posted on Twitter. “The outcome is an accusation of plagiarism and discrimination. However frustrating this has been for all, we will continue to offer opportunities and to support the next generation of writers and talent.”
Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley published a statement on Medium outlining their gripes about what they say is their removal from Tree, and for not being credited for their initial work since producers reworked their ideas.
“In this post, we’re going to explain what happened so that we can stand-up to those responsible — the same people who we initially trusted, who then threatened us with legal action if we spoke up,” the statement reads in part. “It’s worth mentioning that this whole process has been terribly upsetting and we’ve felt terrified about speaking out, but we want to be the change we want to see, and ultimately have been left with no choice because those involved fail to accept that we have a claim.”
The musical premiered on Thursday at the Manchester International Festival. Elba and director Kwame Kwei-Armah are listed as creators. Incorporating music and dance, Tree follows a man as he journeys into South Africa, according to Variety.
Both sides say Elba’s “mi Mandela” album was the impetus for the stage play, but that’s where the agreement stops. Allen-Martin and Henley say their work is still heavily influenced in the play while Elba and his producers said they went in a different direction after Allen-Martin and Henley’s left the play.
“As new ambitions started to be proposed as the jumping off point for development, Tori & Sarah decided they didn’t want to pursue the early thoughts and declined to work any further on the project,” Elba said in his statement. “We were left without any writers and had to start work very quickly, which is our contractual right as beholder of the original idea, the album.”
The actor said Allen-Martin and Henley are still included in the play’s acknowledgements.