A FORMER Oxford headteacher has been fired from her new school in Canada after a play prompted complaints about 'anti-Semitism'.

Judith Carlisle, who was the respected head of Oxford High School for six years, has been criticised for allowing a controversial theatre adaptation of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.

The play was performed by London-based Box Clever Theatre last month at Bishop Strachan School (BSS) in Toronto, which some audience members felt was offensive towards Jews.

Ms Carlisle became head of the girls' private school in August 2017, having left Oxford High on good terms the month before.

Until October 2017 she was also a director of Box Clever, according to Companies House records, and the theatre group had also performed its adaptation of the Merchant of Venice at Oxford High.

At BSS, pupils and parents in the audience were allegedly encouraged to shout 'Hallelujah' in response to slogans about persecuting Jews.

Complaints from parents allegedly led to Ms Carlisle being sacked on Friday.

Box Clever Theatre apologised to any students upset by the adaptation and said it has been performed since 1998 without complaint, including at a major arts centre in Jerusalem.

A statement added: "The production seeks to challenge hatred in all its manifestations and remind audiences of the dangers and consequences of unchallenged discrimination.

"The company was, is and will remain opposed to anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination."

Speaking to Canadian newspaper the Montreal Gazette, the play's director said the anti-Semitic slogans were presented as quotations from an infamous anti-Semitic sermon, and designed to highlight the dangers of pack mentality.

Oxford High School in Summertown said it 'does not recognise the description of the performance at BSS as similar to that performed in Oxford.'

A statement from the private girls' school added: "During its five year association, the school received no complaints about any of the productions which Box Clever presented at the school.

"The new headmaster, however, judged that the adapted nature of the performances did not include enough of the original text for the Oxford High School audience."

The school said it 'ended its association' with Box Clever in October 2017, with a one–off performance followed by a question and answer session with director Iqbal Khan.

Its statement added: "The girls and parents in the audience were from Year 11 and had studied the text and the complex background issues carefully in advance."

In a website entry when Ms Carlisle left Oxford High, the school described her as a 'pioneer in girls' education' who had 'fostered a culture of resilience, creativity and a love of academic rigour and intellectual curiosity'.

In a statement about the play, Ms Carlisle said: "I would never deliberately offend students entrusted to my care or their parents.

"I deeply regret that that there was not a plan in place to ensure that teachers were fully prepared to engage the students on the play.

"As head, the responsibility for that oversight ultimately rests with me.

"I deeply regret any hurt or offence that has been caused by this."

She said the play 'draws attention to the enduring and insidious impacts of anti-Semitism in Shakespeare's time'.

Ms Carlisle added: "As an educator, I believe that it has never been more important for us as to equip our daughters to deal with uncomfortable social issues and learn how to participate effectively in the often contentious debates that surround them.

"If our shared goal is to nurture a generation of strong, independent female leaders, we must stick to these core principles even in the face of occasional controversy."

The Oxford Mail contacted Bishop Strachan School but has not yet received a response.