England Writers Not Very Nice: Renowned Playwright Richard Bean Speaks Out
London / New York Wednesday August 7 2013: In a wide-ranging conversation with emBooks publisher, author and journalist Melanie Phillips about constraints on public debate, Richard Bean has spoken out about the intolerance he has suffered from other writers.
It was reported recently that Bean is working on a new drama for the National Theatre about the phone-hacking scandal, set in a tabloid newsroom. Bean recalls that one reporter misquoted the director of the National, Sir Nicholas Hytner, to make it look as if Hytner had regretted staging a previous, controversial, Bean play.
Bean also reveals that in another incident, when Bean had called a meeting to oppose an attempt by a theater to censor his work, a well-known playwright – whom he does not name – stormed out because Bean had not chosen to write his play from the viewpoint that the playwright herself supported.
Bean, who describes himself as an 'old-fashioned community socialist,' has come under attach because some of his plays have fallen foul of the left-wing orthodoxies of the day.
His play England People Very Nice, a satire about immigration, was put on at the National Theatre in 2009 and directed by Hytner. Bean said he had learned that, when his play opened, the Guardian newspaper sent no fewer than 12 people to see it. They staged a mass walk-out at the interval because they were so appalled. This did not deter some of them, however, from writing hostile articles about it. He recalled a piece about Hytner's career at the National, which reported that Hytner had only one regret – that he had directed England People Very Nice. But when Bean rang the director to ask what had caused him to say such a thing, Hytner replied the report was not accurate. Hytner told Bean he had rung its author to protest and the writer had admitted: 'My bad.'
On another occasion, after Bean had written a play for the Hull Truck Theatre Company in which the name Mohammed was mentioned five times, the company asked him to remove the names as it was nervous about the possible reaction. 'There was nothing controversial at all about the names,' said Bean, 'but it was straight after the Mohammed cartoons [controversy]. I refused to change the script, and they said they would pull the show.' In response, Bean called a meeting of writers at his customary theatre, London's Royal Court – known as a 'writer's theatre' – to gather some high-profile support against this pressure. Said Bean: 'This rather famous and successful writer stood up and said, "You should be writing plays about how Muslims are oppressed throughout the world", turned round and walked out.'
In another anecdote, Bean – whose play The Heretic had taken a sceptical approach to the subject of man-made global warming – recounted how he had recommended a scientific author who took a similarly sceptical position as a speaker for an arts conference on the subject. 'The response came back: "He's a madman, isn't he?' I said he's the nicest man, an intelligent man, a scientist, a family man. 'It's cognitive dissonance: you won't take on board any information which conflicts with your set view of how the world should be, not how it is.'
The interview can be heard in full on the emBooks site at the following link: https://www.embooks.com/blog/single/england-writers-not-very-nice No registration required. Bean was speaking to Melanie Phillips in the summer ahead of the launch of her new website, embooks.com
About emBooks / a division of Melanie Phillips Electric Media emBooks is the highly innovative publishing division of Melanie Phillips Electric Media, the media company launched in May 2013 by Britain's most high-profile journalist, columnist and broadcaster. By publishing short, journalistically-driven ebooks which broadly seek to heal the world, emBooks has demonstrated that it can make an immediate impact on the public dialogue about the paramount issues of our time. In the three months since launch, emBooks has published six formidable titles. Two of the six became Amazon category bestsellers. Four had national and international broadcast and print attention and Helen Wright's DECODING YOUR 21ST CENTURY DAUGHTER: The Anxious Parent's Guide to Raising a Teenage Girl received banner treatment on the front page of the Times of London. emBooks was able to publish Douglas Murray's biting commentary ISLAMOPHILIA: A Very Metropolitan Malady within ten days of the Woolwich Islamist terror attack on a British soldier. This coup was followed by publishing an updated version of DIANA'S BABY: Kate, William and the Repair of a Broken Family just three hours after the birth of Prince George, incorporating fresh material about the birth, and winning plaudits from a leading trade publication, GalleyCat, for having published the "first royal baby book."