Comic Paul Currie, from Belfast, was accused of becoming verbally abusive towards the audience member near the end of the show at Soho Theatre on Saturday night. John*, another attendee, told The Daily Beast that the incident began when Currie pulled out a Palestinian flag.
Paul Currie was performing his show Shtoom—billed by the theater as a “unique, surrealist, dada punk-clown, non-verbal experience from the award-winning Belfast comedy artist.”
“He had a suitcase on the stage that he kept retrieving props from,” John said.
John says a large portion of the audience stood up at that point, which Currie “encouraged.” As people sat down, John says, Currie addressed a young man in the second row. “He said to him: ‘You didn’t stand, did you not enjoy my show?’ And the guy said—who we later learned is Israeli—the guy said: ‘I did enjoy your show until you took out the Palestinian flag.’”
At that point, John alleges, the exchange “escalated” immediately. “[Currie] was quiet for a second and then he said: ‘Get the fuck out of my show. Go on, get the fuck out of here.’ He repeated it so many times—‘Fuck off, get the fuck out of here.’”
John says he and his group had stood at the bit where the Israeli man remained seated. “We weren’t standing for the Palestinian flag,” John says, but rather as an “ovation for the end of his show.” John is Jewish and says he found it “very uncomfortable.”
“We were shocked,” he said. He explained that all four of the people in his group are Jewish and hold Israeli citizenship.
The man on the receiving end of the alleged barrage remained “surprisingly calm,” John said. “I think he was incredibly brave because in a room full of 200 people, to be able to say ‘I enjoyed the show until you took out the flag’ I thought was incredibly brave.” John says they spoke briefly outside the theater after the show, at which point he learned he was Israeli.
During the purported tirade, John claims there were “quite a few” audience members who had risen to their feet, shouting “‘Free Palestine! Free Palestine! Get the fuck out of here.’” John claims the Israeli man, at that point, got up to leave. John and his party also stood to walk out too. He says the experience was “quite frightening because there were a lot of people sort of screaming at that time.”
John says his group went to the foyer of the theater where they tried to speak to the manager on duty. He said the staff member had not witnessed what happened during the show and alleged she “could not compute the magnitude of what we were talking about.”
“She was much more preoccupied with fielding lots of people around the theater going to different venues, and so we were sort of a hindrance to her,” John said. “She really didn’t want to engage with it at all. She said to me: ‘We do advocate freedom of speech here,’ but I don’t really want to hold anything against her because she clearly couldn’t compute what I was really talking about.”
John added that another person who was at the show contacted John’s friend after John and his group had walked out. This person allegedly stayed behind, but had been “thinking of leaving as well, but they were scared, actually, to stand up and be singled out.” They alleged that the chanting had continued after the walkouts and claimed that Currie said to the audience: “‘I think I’m going to get into trouble—can you all please put as much support for me on social media [as possible]?’”
John also says he stood on the sidewalk outside the theater after the show ended. He claims that audience members looked at him and his party “very antagonistically, in a very threatening way,” as they came out. At that point, John says, he decided to leave.
John said that while it hadn’t occurred to him at the time, he later reflected on the fact that The Soho Theatre today stands on the site where the West End Great Synagogue once stood. A mizrach, traditionally placed on the eastern wall of a Jewish building, is still displayed inside the theater. “It just seems incredibly sad that what was once a synagogue became a site where there was a hate crime against Jews,” John said.
John says Saturday was his “first encounter” with Currie. “My opinion of him is that he’s a bit of a lost soul, to be honest,” John added, saying that he hopes that some good comes from the alleged incident. “I’d like him to learn something about this. I’d like him to get a deeper understanding of what this is all about that he was getting himself involved in. That’s what I’d like to see.” He also said he’d like to see a “formal apology—not to me personally but to, you know, the broader community.”
The Daily Beast has contacted Currie for comment.
John says he reported the incident to law enforcement on Monday.
“We are aware of the incident that took place at the Soho Theatre on Saturday evening,” a Metropolitan Police spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “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.”
Earlier, the Soho Theatre said in a statement that it was “sorry and saddened” by the incident “which has caused upset and hurt” to the audience members and others. “We take this very seriously and are looking into the detail of what happened as thoroughly, as sensitively, and as quickly as we can,” the statement read. “It is important to us that Soho Theatre is a welcoming and inclusive place for all.”
The Campaign Against Antisemitism, a British nonprofit dedicated to “exposing and countering antisemitism through education and zero-tolerance enforcement of the law,” says it is now assisting people who were “hounded out” of Currie’s show and is exploring legal options.
“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,” a spokesperson for the organization said. “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.”
*Name changed to protect anonymity.