The Old Vic theater Terry Gilliam
London's Old Vic Theater; (inset) Terry Gilliam.
A London theatre has been criticised for "pandering" to mob rule after cancelling a production by Monty Python star Terry Gilliam - reportedly due to staff unrest about his views on trans rights and the #MeToo movement.

80-year-old Gilliam was set to co-direct the musical Into the Woods at the Old Vic next year, but the show was abruptly cancelled last week. While no reason was given, entertainment news outlet The Stage reported that there had been dissatisfaction among staff since May, when the production was originally announced.

Staff concerns apparently revolved around Gilliam's previous comments in the press relating to transgender issues, race, and the #MeToo movement, which some felt were at odds with the theatre's "culture and values."

In 2018, Gilliam said during a BBC diversity debate that he tells "the world now I'm a black lesbian." He repeated those remarks during an interview last year, telling The Independent that he should be able to identify as a "black lesbian in transition." He also described the #MeToo movement as a "witch hunt" that allowed "decent people" to get "hammered" by "mob mentality," and called some rape accusers "ambitious adults."

Comment: On Terry's 'black lesbian' comment:
Gilliam first sparked controversy in 2018 when he lashed out against a comment made by BBC comedy commissioner Shane Allen, who wrote off Monty Python as unrepresentative of British comedy, and called for more diversity in the industry.

"If you're going to assemble a team now, it's not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes." Allen is quoted as saying, "It's going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world."

The comments rubbed John Cleese and Terry Gilliam the wrong way. At a subsequent press conference, Gilliam stated
"It made me cry: the idea that ... no longer six white Oxbridge men can make a comedy show. Now we need one of this, one of that, everybody represented... this is bullshit. I no longer want to be a white male, I don't want to be blamed for everything wrong in the world: I tell the world now I'm a black lesbian... My name is Loretta and I'm a BLT - a black lesbian in transition."
He went on to state,
"[Allen's] statement made me so angry, all of us so angry. Comedy is not assembled - it's not like putting together a boy band where you put together one of this, one of that everyone is represented."

While at least one staff member reportedly resigned from the production, the "final straw" apparently came after Gilliam encouraged his social media followers to watch Dave Chappelle's new Netflix special, The Closer.

Describing Chappelle as the "greatest standup comedian alive today," Gilliam noted in a Facebook post on October 14 that there was a "storm brewing" over the streaming service's support for the show. The comedy special has been in the news after backlash over allegedly transphobic content - including Chappelle describing gender as a "fact" - with Netflix staff staging walkouts and facing off against the comedian's supporters.

Two weeks later, the theatre announced on its website that it had "mutually agreed" with co-producers Scenario Two that the "production of 'Into the Woods' will not take place at the Old Vic." The Central London theatre had apparently sold £300,000 worth of tickets for the production of Stephen Sondheim's 1987 musical. The playwright is "furious" over the decision and is standing by Gilliam, according to iNews.

Users on social media have also expressed support for Gilliam, with many criticising the Old Vic management for "pandering to Cancel Culture" and letting the "mob dictate who is acceptable" and who is not. A number of commenters likened the cancellation to "puritanical" censorship - with some paying homage to iconic Monty Python sketches.

"Isn't this all getting a bit dangerous??? Soon no one will share views at all for fear of being ruined. It takes 300 people to get an ad removed from TV, a lot less to cost a person their job," British filmmaker Paul Andrew Williams tweeted.

Some defended the theatre's decision, however, pointing out the "completely disproportionate" levels of "danger" between Gilliam's inability to "put on a show" and daily life for trans people. Others referenced his comments to opine why they "wouldn't want to work with anyone" who holds those views.