Soho Theatre: Jewish theatregoers felt ‘unsafe’ at Paul Currie comedy show

Image caption,

The incident allegedly took place at a gig by comedian Paul Currie

A London theatre has apologised after an incident at a comedy gig left Jewish audience members feeling “unsafe” and “threatened”.

The incident took place at the Soho Theatre on Saturday night during a performance by comedian Paul Currie.

A Jewish attendee told the BBC that Mr Currie displayed a Palestinian flag and yelled “get out” at a man who objected.

The theatre said it was “sorry and saddened” by the incident and police said enquiries were ongoing.

Mr Currie has been approached for comment by BBC News.

One man, who attended the show with his wife and friends, told the BBC the incident happened about five minutes from the end of Mr Currie’s show after the comedian had unveiled both a Ukrainian and Palestinian flag in front of the 200-strong audience.

“He started waving it around and some audience members stood up – he encouraged a standing ovation,” said the man, who wished to remain anonymous.

He claimed Mr Currie had noticed that one person – who was later revealed to be Israeli – had remained seated. He then asked him whether he enjoyed the show, to which the audience member replied that he had enjoyed it until he had taken the Palestinian flag out.

“Within a second, [Mr Currie] erupted,” the man said. “He immediately said ‘get out of my show’. Audience members were shouting ‘get out’ and ‘free Palestine’.

“We did not feel safe to continue. We were not that far away from the exit door, we were keeping our heads down.

“We felt threatened and marginalised – we did not know who was friend or foe.”

The man said he reported the incident to a Soho Theatre staff member, who he claimed was unsympathetic and “out of her depth”.

He said: “We stood on the [pavement] outside. Five minutes later, the audience came out because the show had ended, and there were a good number of people glaring at us.”

The man explained how he felt “traumatised” by the experience, which has left him wondering if he would go back to central London again.

The man who was allegedly targeted at the event has also spoken of his experience.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Liahav Eitan said he was left terrified of the “mob mentality” on display at the theatre and claimed he feared the comedian would throw a punch as he left.

“The only way out was through the stage,” Mr Eitan said. “We had to actually get on the stage quite close to him – and I was quite afraid that he’d throw a punch because he was still cursing and shouting.”

In a statement, the theatre said: “We take this every seriously and are looking into the detail of what happened as thoroughly, as sensitively, and as quickly as we can.

“It is important to us that Soho Theatre is a welcoming and inclusive place for all.”

Soho Theatre in Dean Street, a former synagogue, opened its doors to audiences in March 2000.

The Metropolitan Police said it was aware of the incident and enquiries were ongoing.

“We understand why it was upsetting for those involved and we note the venue has issued a statement confirming they are looking into what took place,” a spokesperson said.

Following the show, Currie also re-posted on his Instagram story a comment from an audience member which read: “Thanks Paul Currie for an amazing show on Saturday and for unapologetically calling for a ceasefire now.”.

Mr Currie’s show, Shtoom, is described on the theatre website as a “unique, surrealist, dada punk-clown, non-verbal experience”. The Belfast comedian does not speak in the hour-long show until the very end, instead relying on mime, music and audience participation.

Saturday was the final performance of the three-night run in Soho. He had unveiled the Ukrainian and Palestinian flags at the conclusion of the show on at least one of the previous nights, also encouraging the audience to shout “Free Palestine” on that occasion.

He had taken the show to Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer and is next due to perform it in Glasgow next month.

Israel has been in conflict with Hamas in Gaza since 7 October, when Hamas gunmen killed at least 1,200 people in southern Israel and took 253 other people hostage.

The Israeli military subsequently launched a large-scale air and ground campaign in Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry says 28,473 Palestinians have been killed.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said it was supporting multiple Jewish members of the audience at Saturday’s show.

“What the Jewish audience members have recounted is atrocious, and we are working with them and our lawyers to ensure that those who instigated and enabled it are held to account,” the organisation said in a statement.

“These allegations are of deeply disturbing discriminatory abuse against Jews.

“Comedians are rightly given broad latitude, but hounding Jews out of theatres is reminiscent of humanity’s darkest days, and must have no place in central London in 2024.”

The group added that it was considering “various forms of civil action” and that the police had been informed.

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