Derry Girls actor offered apology for 'overweight girl' review

The British Theatre Guide has apologised to the Derry Girls actor Nicola Coughlan after one of its reviewers described her as an “overweight little girl”.

The offending description, which has since been removed, appeared in Philip Fisher’s review of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden, London.

He wrote that Coughlan as Joyce Emily was “the kind of overweight little girl who will always become the butt of her fellows’ immature humour”.

Responding on Twitter, the actor complained that was the second time Fisher had been to see a show she was in and “as part of reviewing the show he has also reviewed my body”.

Nicola Coughlan

Hi @BritTheatreGuid, for the second time your reviewer Philip Fisher has come to see a show I’m in, and as part of reviewing the show he has also reviewed my body.
How can you continue to support this?

June 14, 2018

Addressing Fisher, the BTG’s London editor, she said: “I know you are a theatre reviewer and your body has no relevance to your job but maybe you’d like me to cruelly review it for you and post it online.”

In tweets to the British Theatre Guide (BTG), she said Fisher was not welcome to review any more shows in which she appears. After her initial post, she won backing from many people on Twitter including fellow actors.

Susan Wokoma, who starred in Crazyhead and Chewing Gum, wrote: “This has happened to me before, it’s really unnerving. Sharing solidarity – we must call reviewers out on this!”

Responding a few hours later, the BTG said: “Nicola, we apologise unreservedly for the offence caused by the wording of this review. The offending words have been removed. While the reviewer may not have intended to offend, he accepts that it is not acceptable to use such descriptions in a review and not BTG policy.”

Some on Twitter complained that the apology did not go far enough as it only apologised for “offence caused”.

Nicola Coughlan as Clare Devlin with her co-stars in Channel 4’s Derry Girls. Photograph: Adam Lawrence

Coughlan wrote that Fisher also reviewed her last year in a show called Jess and Joe Forever at the Traverse Theatre, in Edinburgh, and that his opening sentence was: “Jess [the part played by Coughlan] is a fat girl.” That description also appears to have been removed from the BTG website. Coughlan wrote: “My weight has no relevance to either the performance I gave in that or in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

Coughlan plays Clare in Channel 4’s hit comedy Derry Girls, which is set in Northern Ireland in the 1990s at the tail end of the Troubles. The show, written by Lisa McGee, won the best comedy award at the Irish Film and Television Awards last month.

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