Idris Elba has responded to claims that he removed two female writers from a musical theatre production.

Tree is about life in South Africa after Nelson Mandela and premieres at this month’s Manchester International Festival.

It is credited to Hollywood star Elba and director Kwame Kwei-Armah.

But Sarah Henley and Tori Allen-Martin say they worked on the project for four years before being “pushed off” by “far more powerful people”.

Responding to the claims made by the women in a blog post entitled Tree: A Story Of Gender And Power In Theatre, Elba said the production was instead based on the story of his father.

In a statement on Twitter, he said the women’s claims were “offensive to me and my family”.

Elba said his father’s story had inspired a song which brought on Elba’s album Mi Mandela and then the theatrical work Tree.

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Henley and Allen-Martin had decided they did not want to continue working on the project as it was developed, he said, adding: “They expressed their reasoning and we respected their decision.

“Rightfully, as they were parts of the original journey among many others, we have acknowledged Tori and Sarah in the foreword of the programme printed ready for the first preview in Manchester.

“We wanted to offer an opportunity to support these new writers while creating a piece of work of scale and to a director’s vision.

“The outcome is an accusation of plagiarism and discrimination.

“However frustrating this has been for all, we will continue to offer opportunities and to support the next generation of writers and talent.”

Henley and Allen-Martin claimed they became “completely disposable… because we’re not famous or important enough”.

They said: “We put four years of work into that project, and the majority of those involved read our script, our proposal documents, our premise, and our synopsis – there is no way it’s a ‘different project’, no matter how much it’s changed.

“We were expected to shut up, lie down, and take it.”

The production companies involved in the project agreed the women were involved in “exploring ideas” but they “did not feel their proposed direction was artistically viable”.

The MIF, London’s Young Vic Theatre and Elba’s company Green Door Pictures said: “Several offers were made to Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley to discuss the future of the show, and how the producers could continue working with them, which they declined.”

courtesy of Sky News