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Writers say they were ‘bullied at every corner’ and thrown off Idris Elba show

Two writers have accused the artistic director of a leading theatre of booting them off a project with Idris Elba only to go ahead with the musical they’d written. 

Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley were approached by the Luther star to write a show based on his 2014 album Mi Mandela. 

Their project caught the eye of theatre director Kwame Kwei-Armah, who offered to put it on at the Young Vic in south-east London.

But they say that, after three years of working on the show, they were kicked off Tree after a campaign of relentless bullying.

When the show finally hit the venue, both say that they weren’t credited as writers in promotional material. 

Elba and Kwei-Armah maintain that Tree was their project and that only Kwei-Armah was involved in the writing.

But Allen-Martin and Henley accused the pair of intimidation and disrespect in a statement detailing their allegations on Medium. 

They say that Kwei-Armah only got involved in the project in May last year and that they actually started working on it three years ago with Elba.

Both say that when the Young Vic chief came on board the production, it was not with the intention of contributing writing. 

As delays dogged the production, the two were told that ‘scheduling’ was to blame before they then saw a revised synopsis penned by Kwei-Armah.   

When they announced the production in October, there was no credit for either Allen-Martin or Henley.

Both have said that it was ‘professionally quite damaging’ as it left people to make up their own minds as to why they weren’t kept on the project.  

Elba and Kwei-Armah then offered them the chance to write a new version based on the revised synopsis, leading to a row about the original agreement, with the writers claim gives them to ability to veto anybody else who is brought in to write for Tree.

Just weeks later, they were were thrown off the door and Elba’s production firm Green Door informed them it was ‘a different project entirely’, they allege.

Kwei-Armah and Elba faced an interview about the row that is soon to be released by The Times.

When asked whether there were any other writers involved in the play, Kwei-Armah claimed ‘we did it’ before Elba said ‘Kwame wrote it’. 

Kwei-Armah had told the original writers that their version was not feasible and claims he tried to talk with them.

In a statement about the row, he said that Elba had wanted both original writers involved in the show despite desiring a ‘totally different direction’.

He claims that the actor wanted them to ‘join us both in the creative sessions that would eventually create a new script’.

But he claimed that the actor’s diary meant that they struggled to meet up with Allen-Martin and Henley.

And he accused them of snubbing a meeting when he sent them a ‘very rough outline’ of a script. 

‘I never refused to communicate with you,’ he said. ‘Quite the opposite, I continually requested for us to meet and discuss that the outline was only a creative jumping-off point.’

Kwei-Armah says that he wrote a full draft when the writers refused to meet up with him.  


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