Campaigners have already disrupted one talk before a performance of Richard Bean's play, England People Very Nice, by mounting the first onstage demonstration in the National Theatre's 32-year history.And their problem…?
However, they are now planning to picket audiences arriving at the theatre and Travelex, one of the National's main sponsors.
Bean's play charts the settling of the French Huguenot, Irish, Jewish and Bengali communities in Bethnal Green since the 17th century.Seems like just the sort of thing we need, doesn’t it? A look back at the advantages - and disadvantages - of our history of immigrant waves? In just the same way the BBC is happy to spend our money on special ‘Eastenders’ episodes looking at ‘the black experience’. I don’t recall protests about that.
The National has billed it as "a riotous journey through four waves of immigration" in the East End of London.
It seems not all agree:
After his protest Mr Ismail, 43, said: "Richard Bean is making it seem like all Bangladeshis are drug dealers or users, muggers and marry their cousins."Odd thing to say – does ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ make it seem like all Irish people are rural peasants? It’s drama, for god’s sake!
Mr Kinsella, a teacher from London, said: "I find it outrageous that a play that could have been written by a racist Year Nine pupil has been allowed to be performed at the National – a publicly funded theatre."
And I wonder just what Mr Kinsella ‘teaches’, if he believes that the National Theatre wouldn’t have had lawyers crawling all over anything potentially sticky before opening night.
Mr Ismail outlined his plan to take the protest to currency exchange firm Travelex, which sponsors the National's £10 ticket season.Listen, you odious little toad, he has no obligation whatsoever to hold ‘a head-to-head public debate’ with the likes of you. Who, exactly, do you think you are?
He said he was doing this because Nicholas Hytner, the director of the National Theatre, had persistently rejected his requests for a head-to-head public debate.
He said: "I've asked Travelex to support and mediate our claim for a public debate. If they don't come back we will have to say that Travelex supports a racist play."
Accusing Hytner of being "reckless and irresponsible" in putting on a play he described as "childish and purposefully racist", he said: "He wants a national conversation, so let's have a public debate. He has put this out there; let us challenge it."By picketing, and by disrupting legitimate theatre productions? That isn’t ‘challenge’.
If you don’t like Bean’s play, write one yourself – you are supposedly a ‘playwright’, or so you claim.
Ironically the play was meant to "lampoon" the sort of racist 'Alf Garnett' attitudes that all the four immigrant groups have experienced.Won’t matter – the Offended have spoken. Everyone else can presumably shut up. That’ll help integration, I’m sure….
Nicholas Hytner, the director of the National Theatre, said: "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."