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Northern Ireland actor Fra Fee in row over transgender character in London play


Controversy: Fra Fee

Controversy: Fra Fee

Controversy: Fra Fee

Co Tyrone actor Fra Fee is at the centre of a West End row after being cast as a transgender character in a new stage musical adaptation of Patrick McCabe's novel, Breakfast on Pluto.

The Dungannon man's casting has prompted a trans actress to pull out of the show in protest.

Kate O'Donnell was due to play the mother of the main character, Patrick/Pussy Braden, but withdrew after that role was given to Fee, who is best known for playing Courfeyrac in Tom Hooper's 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables.

The producers said they tried to find a trans performer for the role but O'Donnell argued that they didn't try hard enough.

The casting of Fee (32) sparked an outcry among the trans community on social media and O'Donnell said the backlash was "justified and nothing new".

O'Donnell was due to have played Ma Braden, who is not a trans character.

"I was offered the part and realised with the heaviest of hearts - because West End theatre production roles do not come along every day especially when you're a trans performer - that I was going to have to decline the role," she told BBC News.

"I could not be in a show where a trans woman is once again seen as a man in a dress as this perpetuates the idea that this is what a trans woman is and leads to violence, even death," she added.

In a statement the show's producers said: "The partners offered Kate O'Donnell the role of Ma Braden in line with their usual casting processes.

"Kate declined the role and we all respect her decision."

They said the show's creative team had conducted a "wide search" to find someone to play the lead role.

The show, described as a "musical of self-discovery", will follow Patrick/Pussy from small-town Ireland to London in the 1970s.

It will be staged at the Donmar Warehouse in London in October, following runs in Galway, Dublin and at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

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