‘The Color Purple’ actor Seyi Omooba ordered to pay over £300,000

British actor Seyi Omooba has been ordered to pay over £300,000 of court costs after losing her discrimination claim against a British theatre and her own talent agent.

Seyi Omooba was cast in a 2019 production of The Color Purple at Leicester’s Curve Theatre. After it was announced Omooba would be taking of the role of Celie in the production, actors who had worked with her in the past took to social media and highlighted comments she’d previously made stating that she did not believe people were born gay and homosexuality was wrong, despite it no longer being criminalised.

Shortly after the posts were highlighted it was announced Omooba would be leaving the production. The actor has subsequently sued the theatre and her former agents Global Artists for £128,000 (AUD$229,000) on the grounds of religious discrimination and breach of contract.

The court however found that the theatre and Omooba’s agent had no case to answer and has order the actor to pay their costs which total  £259,356 for Curve’s bills and £53,839 for Global’s costs, totaling £313,195. The cost is equivalent to AU D$569, 420.

The play is based on Alice Walker’s novel which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The novel was adapted into a film by Stephen Spielberg in 1985 starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey. The musical version made it’s premiere on Broadway in 2005 with music and lyrics by Allee Willis, Stephen Bray and Brenda Russell.

The actor admitted in court that she hadn’t read the full script when she signed on to play the part, but would have done so by the time rehearsal commenced.

Durng the court hearing it was revealed that the actor had previously told her agents that she would not play overtly sexual characters or undertake gay roles. Lawyers for the venue argued that Omooba would have eventually pulled out of the role, leaving the theatre high and dry. The actor’s lawyers in turn suggested that whether the character is a lesbian or not is open to interpretation.

The court heard that Omooba had turned down a settlement of £4,309, which would have been her full pay for the contract. The actor argues that by being asked to leave the production her career has been significantly damaged.

Omooba was being represented by the legal arm of Christian Concern, an organisation co-founded by her father, pastor Ade Omooba MBE. The organisation previously declared the case “will expose the mechanisms of censorship at the heart of the theatre industry”, and showed that “any dissenting views against LGBT ideology, especially Christian beliefs, are currently incompatible with a theatrical career.”

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern has described the theatre and talent agencies costs in the case as unacceptably high.

“The costs they are asking for are 15 times more than the usual costs of defending a Tribunal case, which is rather difficult to square with their premise that her case was so hopeless that it was unreasonable for her to pursue it. They were so concerned about it that they hired the most expensive solicitor firms, a specialist QC and senior counsel to defend what they now try to make out was a hopeless case.” Williams said on the group’s website.

Williams said the theatre and talent agency had run a PR campaign against Omooba that included “drumming up support from the vociferous movement of ‘LGBTQ+ and allies’, and hired aggressive heavyweight barristers to attempt a very public character assassination in the witness box.”

Curve Theatre says they are glad the court decided to order Omooba to cover the costs of the case.

“We have always felt the case lacked any merit from the outset, but Seyi Omooba and her legal team continued to disregard our pleadings and chose to take our theatre to court irrespective of the facts.”  the theatre said in a statement.

OIP Staff

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