South Bank demo at National Theatre over ‘racist’ play

National Theatre demoA demonstration against the play England People Very Nice was held outside the National Theatre on Friday. At one point a large banner was displayed from a balcony.

The controversial play by Richard Bean looks at immigration in London’s East End. It is directed by the National’s artistic director Nicholas Hytner who says that the play “lampoons all forms of stereotyping: it is a boisterous satire of stereotypes of French, Irish, Jews, Bangladeshis, white East End cockneys, Hampstead liberals and many others. Every stereotype is placed in the context of its opposite and it clearly sets out to demonstrate that all forms of racism are equally ridiculous.”

The outdoor demonstration preceded a Platform event during which the play’s writer Richard Bean was due to discuss his work. The protest, under the banner “Love Theatre Hate Racism”, was organised by Bethnal Green playwright Hussain Ismail. Cllr Abjol Miah, leader of the Respect group on Tower Hamlets Council, was present with several objectors from the East End.

“I am passionate about theatre and I don’t think theatre should be used to peddle racist filth under the guise of comedy and serious theatre.” Hussain Ismail told the small crowd of passers-by on the riverside who stopped to listen to speeches. “We don’t need to be told about multi-culturalism by an elitist institution that does not represent multi-cultural London. What we need to do is to challenge the racist rubbish.”

London SE1, 28 February 2009

See also Daily Telegraph, 28 February 2009