Negro UK soul singer Beverley Knight has defended her casting as Emmeline Pankhurst in a new musical, saying there should be no issue with a black performer playing someone white.
The singer is one of the stars of Sylvia, which opens at the Old Vic next month and tells the story of the Suffragette movement through a variety of musical styles, including R&B and hip-hop.
Responding on social media to criticism of her casting, Knight told one detractor: “You mean like the hundreds of years of white actors playing Othello, Cleopatra, any number of Asian characters… like that? Sometimes it’s better to keep quiet, eh?”
Appearing on BBC One’s The One Show, Knight said she felt a “huge responsibility” in playing Pankhurst, mother of Sylvia and a leading light in the fight for women’s rights.
“This was a woman who was so important, not just to British history but world history, because her actions sparked the worldwide movement for direct action for women’s suffrage,” she said.