Walkouts and rows in the stalls as politics enters Theatreland stage left – or maybe right | Vanessa Thorpe
From black-only nights to an anti-capitalist rant, the West End has discovered its radical side. But is it a playwright’s job to change the world?
The scheduled arrival in a West End theatre this summer of Slave Play, a Broadway multiple award-winner, has already created a big fuss. But it’s not the uncompromising content of the production – “a story of race, identity and sexuality” on a Virginia plantation – that has prompted the flap that reached Downing Street. No, it was the bold idea of “Black Out” nights, when seats in the auditorium would be sold only to black or non-white ticket holders.
Even without the alarm sounded over this plan, playwright Jeremy O Harris’s strident work will fit right into a London Theatreland that is shifting somewhat in the direction of a radical agenda, if not actually taking up the cudgels with the establishment. A mention of Palestine during last week’s British premiere of the harshly satirical German play Nachtland wrung cries from members of the Young Vic audience. It was a glimmer of just the kind of “uncomfortable moment” aimed at by Patrick Marber, director of this new play by Marius von Mayenburg that tackles the scarcely buried legacy of antisemitic prejudice in Berlin.