Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Theatre News

"Fucking Frogs! My grandfather didn’t die in the English Civil War so’s half the population of France could come over here and live off the soup!" from England People Very Nice, at the Olivier.

As a fairly frequent theatregoer, albeit seldom to anything more controversial than commercial musicals about men in frocks, I can't help chortling over the goings on south of the river where the National Theatre (subsidy £20m) is staging a play about immigration. The blurb says it's, "Written with scurrilous bravura. Richard Bean’s great sweep of a comedy follows a pair of star-crossed lovers amid cutters’ mobs, Papists, Jewish anarchists and radical Islamists across four tempestuous centuries."

But a member of one particular group is offended. Guess which. Correct.

Hussain Ismail writes an article for the Guardian saying, "Though it's billed as a comedy, (it) didn't make me laugh. It just made me angry. Racism often hides behind humour... blah, blah, etc." and has demanded (and received) a meeting with the director to air his complaints. To be fair, most of those commenting disagree with him. In general, they feel that the play uses comedy well to make a good point about the hostility felt by successive waves of immigrants. But here's what I wonder....

When a sophisticated metropolitan Guardianista hears a joke like, "Irish and Jewish, that's the worst mix. You end up with a family of pissed-up burglars run by a clever accountant." and laughs at it - is he only laughing in an ironic, counter-intuitive, post-modern structuralist way? I bet he thinks he is. The average NT goer wouldn't find the same gag funny at all if cracked by, say, Jim Davidson. Oh no.

Either way... The play might be offensive, it might be misguided. But I'm glad it's on. Every attempt must be made to resist repression by people who want to control our thoughts and means of expression - especially supporters of such a repressive ideology as Islam.

Hussain Ismael is organising a demo. Just him and a few Sparts, so far. Lord Ahmed would have gone but he's a bit tied up at the moment.

Meanwhile, over at the Globe, producers of that well-known slasher play, Romeo and Juliet, are in talks with Scotland Yard. Katharine Grice, a spokesman for Globe Education, said the director did not believe his production of Romeo and Juliet would fuel knife crime, but that he did want to conduct "responsible" research into how best to present it to a modern day, teenage audience. "It is about taking responsibility and having awareness that knife crime touches on the lives of so many teenagers in London," she said. "These scenes must not be seen to glamorise it." Watch out for hoodies in doublet and hose, it'll be the latest rage, mark my words.


Selena Dreamy said...

"Racism often hides behind humour..."

Yep, I think we need more of that sort of good, clean racist fun...like, for instance, as shown in the recent ITV documentary "In the Line of Fire".

As someone said: "time and again it stresses how the majority of victims and suspects of gun crime in London are black. Not mentioning that all officers shown arresting them are white seems bizarre to say the least."

There, it may be said, speaks the authentically humorous voice of anti-racism - well, at least it made me laugh...

All Shook Up said...

Ever heard of 'colour-blind casting', Dreamy? All the rage in progressive theatre. A black girl plays, say, Juliet. I wouldn't mind at all.. except that everyone studiously avoids noticing.

Anne said...

I treasure from The Independent the comment Hussain Ismail made when railing about his failed meeting with Hytner:
“This play is racist and we want to argue and say that. This is not the East End we know. I was born in this area and know it very well. I love living in this area. I would not live anywhere else.
“It [the play] creates new stereotypes about Bangladeshis that I have never heard, that we marry our cousins which is complete rubbish. That is the Pakistanis.”


(BTW, what's your line on tinyurl? I could tinyurl that link for you if you'd rather. Or go to www.independent.co.uk and search for Hussain Ismail.)

All Shook Up said...

Haha.. racism, eh? Always easy to point the finger ...

Tiny's good but I found the link, thanks.

Good to see you again, Anne.