Transgender actress Kate O'Donnell pulls out of musical in casting row

Actress Kate O’Donnell pulls out of West End musical after it cast a male actor in transgender lead role, as she says the stereotype could lead to ‘violence, even death’

  • O’Donnell was cast as the mother of the lead character in the West End show
  • The actress turned the role down in protest over casting of Irish actor Fra Free
  • The show will open in London in October after runs in Dublin and Birmingham 

A transgender actress has refused to star in a new West End play – an adaptation of the novel Breakfast On Pluto – in a row about casting.

Kate O’Donnell had been cast as the mother of the lead character, Patrick/Pussy Braden, in a new musical version of Patrick McCabe’s book at the Donmar Warehouse in London.

The novel, which was shortlisted for the 1998 Booker Prize, tells the story of a trans woman’s escape from a fictional Irish town and alcoholic foster mother. 

O’Donnell was due to play Ma Braden, who is not a trans character, but pulled out of the production in protest after the part went to Irish actor Fra Free. 

Transgender actress Kate O’Donnell (above in Gypsy at Manchester’s Royal Exchange) has refused to star in a musical version of the novel Breakfast On Pluto

In a post on Twitter, O’Donnell wrote: ‘While @Donmar Warehouse are thrilled the trans community [are] less thrilled once again we are left out of the telling of a trans story. 

‘I was cast to play Pussy’s adopted Mother but had to decline due to a cis man being cast to play her. It’s been a sh*t few days.’

The actress said that the show’s producers didn’t try hard enough to find a trans performer for the role.

‘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. 

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.’

The stage version of Breakfast on Pluto, which was also made into a 2005 film featuring Cillian Murphy, is due to open in the capital in October, following runs in Galway, Dublin and at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

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