Audience members at a show fronted by Belfast comedian Paul Currie are reporting a different experience amid claims a number of Jewish people were “hounded” out of a London theatre.
Controversy erupted after reports emerged Mr Currie allegedly ordered a Jewish man from the Soho Theatre towards the end of Saturday night’s show, the last of three at the London venue.
The 52-year-old comedian and performance artist, long a fixture on the local arts scene, was accused of stirring up the audience with shouts of support for Palestinians as the Israeli man and his female partner left the theatre.
This prompted an apology and promise of an investigation from the Soho Theatre, condemnation from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) and enquiries from the Met Police.
The incident began after Mr Currie produced a Ukrainian and Palestinian flag close to the end of Shtoom, described as a “unique, surrealist, dada punk-clown, non-verbal experience”.
Mr Currie encouraged the audience to stand and clap but reportedly noticed one man remained in his seat.
According to the man, later identified as a 33-year-old software engineer who moved from Israel to London five years ago, and a number of people who were sitting directly behind him, Mr Currie questioned why he did not stand and whether he did not like the show.
The man replied he did up until the point the Palestinian flag was produced.
“Then he just turns back to me and starts screaming, ‘I’m from Belfast. I know everything about ceasefires’,” the man told MailOnline.
“Ceasefire now, get the f*** out of my theatre. Get out, get the f*** out of my show, motherf***ers,” Mr Currie is alleged to have added.
Many in the audience began shouting “ceasefire now” and “free Palestine” as the man and his partner, along with four others, also later identified as Jewish, left the theatre.
In a statement, the Met Police said: “We are aware of the incident that took place at the Soho Theatre on Saturday evening.
“We understand why it was upsetting for those involved and we note the venue has issued a statement confirming they are looking into what took place.
“A report was submitted to police on Monday and enquiries are ongoing.”
While the incident led to the condemnation of the Newtownabbey comedian, puppeteer, circus performer and artist, others in the audience related a different experience to the leading website for the comedy industry, chortle.co.uk
Aoibhinn Treanor told the website it was “disproportionate and irrational” to complain about the flag “when there can be no doubt of the horrendous suffering” of the Palestinian population.
She described the audience, most of them “on-message with the performer”, as expressing love for peace and not anti-semitism.
Another audience member, named as Jo, said Mr Currie was “angered” by the rejection of the Palestinian flag.
She added: “’He then started chanting ‘ceasefire now’ and much of the audience joined in. He then gave a passionate speech in which he condemned the actions of Hamas, but also those of Israel.
“He made a comparison with his hometown, Belfast. He said if the British Government had had a similar reaction to the IRA, as Israel had to Hamas, he would not be here.”
A CAA spokesperson said: “What the Jewish audience-members have recounted is atrocious, and we are working with them and our lawyers to ensure that those who instigated and enabled it are held to account.
“These allegations are of deeply disturbing discriminatory abuse against Jews. Comedians are rightly given broad latitude, but hounding Jews out of theatres is reminiscent of humanity’s darkest days, and must have no place in central London in 2024.”