Miss Saigon row: Theatre group CANCELS play at Sheffield Crucible in protest

Theatre group CANCELS performance at Sheffield Crucible in protest over its decision to stage Miss Saigon as they condemn musical’s ‘damaging tropes, misogyny and racism’

  • New Earth Theatre withdrew its play Worth over the production of Miss Saigon
  • They said the musical contains ‘damaging tropes, misogyny and racism’ 
  • Sheffield Theatres said it ‘respected’ their decision to withdraw the play
  • Musical follows a Vietnamese girl and her relationship with an American soldier 

A theatre company has pulled a play from Sheffield’s Crucible theatre in protest over its decision to stage the musical Miss Saigon at the same time.

New Earth Theatre company, a group of British east and southeast Asian artists, announced it was withdrawing its production Worth from the Crucible due to its decision to produce Miss Saigon.

The group said the musical contains ‘damaging tropes, misogyny and racism’ directed towards Vietnamese people.

Sheffield Theatres, which operates the 980-seat Crucible in city centre, said it ‘respected’ the decision to withdraw the production. 

Miss Saigon is set in Vietnam towards the end of the war, telling the story of a young Vietnamese woman and her relationship with an American soldier. Pictured: A performance of the play in Vienna, Austria in January 2022

Miss Saigon is set in Vietnam towards the end of the war, telling the story of a young Vietnamese woman and her relationship with an American soldier. Pictured: A performance of the play in Vienna, Austria in January 2022

New Earth Theatre said Miss Saigon ‘remains a very contentious musical since its release over thirty years ago’.

They said it had ‘hurt and angered many viewers due to its highly problematic narrative and portrayal of the Vietnam War and Vietnamese people.

‘We recognise concerns from our team that working alongside a musical that perpetuates deeply held notions of Asian inferiority would impact their wellbeing.’ 

Responding, Sheffield Theatres said there was ‘no denying that past versions of this story have provoked strong reactions and feelings’.

‘We have approached this new production sensitive to this and believe this is a chance for us to engage in a fresh way with a majority East and South East Asian company reframing the story,’ the theatre said.

In a lengthy statement released on Monday, the theatre’s creative directors Robert Hastie and Anthony Lau gave a fuller explanation for why they were staging a new production of Miss Saigon in summer 2023.

Sheffield's Crucible theatre (pictured) said it respected New Earth Theatre's decision to withdraw their play Worth over the staging of Miss Saigon but said its new production was 'sensitive' to concerns

Sheffield’s Crucible theatre (pictured) said it respected New Earth Theatre’s decision to withdraw their play Worth over the staging of Miss Saigon but said its new production was ‘sensitive’ to concerns 

They said that they understood the play ‘tells a story about Vietnam that contains depictions of Vietnamese women and men that have upset people and have been seen to reinforce damaging stereotypes’.

However, the venue’s directors said they had hoped to reimagine the classic ‘through new lenses, that speak to the world as it is today’.

The original version of Miss Saigon opened in London’s West End in 1989.

Despite receiving critical acclaim, including two Laurence Olivier and three Tony awards, the original sparked controversy as white actors wore eye prostheses to change their apperance. 

Set in Vietnam towards the end of the war, it was inspired by Puccini’s 1904 opera Madama Butterfly, telling the story of a young Vietnamese woman and her relationship with an American soldier.

BEATS, an advocacy group for British east and southeast Asians working in the theatre and screen industry, hit out at the ‘damaging cliches’ perpetuated in Miss Saigon.

The group said the musical ‘fetishised and hyper-sexualised’ Vietnamese women, ’emasculated and erased’ Asian men, ‘while also erasing the real experience of war and violence suffered by millions’.

They added: ‘The time for a publicly subsidised production of Miss Saigon has surely passed.’

Sheffield Theatres did not provide any further comment when approached. 

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