In March 2019, it was announced that actress Seyi Omooba would play the lead role of Celie in the Curve Leicester and Birmingham Hippodrome production of The Color Purple, having previously played the role of Nettie in the Cadogan Hall production.
A week later, Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome released this statement:
“On Friday 15 March a social media post dating from 2014, which was written by the The Color Purple cast member Seyi Omooba, was re-posted on Twitter. The comments made by Seyi in that post have caused significant and widely expressed concerns both on social media and in the wider press. Following careful reflection it has been decided that Seyi will no longer be involved with the production.”
Six months later, on 28 September 2019, The Daily Mail published an article in which Seyi Omooba broke her silence and gave her side of the story, including news that she was suing for ‘religious discrimination’.
In the article she said that she rejects the assertion that she is homophobic.
She said: ‘I just quoted what the Bible says about homosexuality, the need for repentance, but ultimately God’s love for all humanity. I stand by what I wrote, but had I known that it would have come to this, I would have set my account to the privacy mode.’
She then spoke on BBC Radio 4 and when asked if she still stands by her quote said “I do not believe that you can be born gay and I do not believe homosexual practice is right’, Seyi confidently said “Yes I most definitely stand by those comments, I believe what the bible says about what god has called us to do, to live as man and woman, so I definitely stand by the word of god because that’s what the bible says”.
She finished by saying “I don’t see why what I said was offensive – I was quoting the bible my belief system and my faith. I was expressing my belief system on Facebook, does that mean I can’t perform? I’ve never made people feel less loved because I’m a Christian – just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean we can’t work together or can’t be friends”.
Seyi sued for breach of contract against the Curve and her former agents, Michael Garrett Associates, with help of the organisation Christian Concern, for which her father Pastor Ade Omooba, is a co-founder. Her father has previously been reported to be an advocate for gay conversion therapy.
Fast forward to today, almost two years later and the legal battle is finally over and Seyi Omooba’s claims against Curve have been rejected by an employment tribunal. In a statement released Curve said:
“We are pleased Seyi Omooba’s claims against Curve have been rejected by an employment tribunal. 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.
Unfortunately, we consider that Curve has been subject to a carefully orchestrated campaign from Seyi Omooba and Christian Concern, who have used the tribunal process- and our theatre- as an opportunity to further their case in what they describe as exposing “the mechanisms of censorship at the heart of the theatre industry, and how any dissenting views against LGBT ideology, especially Christian beliefs, are currently incompatible with a theatrical career”. We know this is not true; theatre is one of the most inclusive, joyous and diverse industries and we celebrate this across all of our work at Curve.”
Coincidentally, a filmed version of the Curve production of The Color Purple (filmed earlier this year) starts streaming online tonight until 7 March 2021. This production does not feature Seyi Omooba.