Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Rita, Sue and Bob Too Is Too Controversial For London
Just a couple of months ago I had the great pleasure and privilege of seeing the revival of Andrea Dunbar's play Rita, Sue and Bob Too at the Liverpool Everyman.
Today it has been announced that the Out of Joint Theatre Company production will no longer end its national tour at London's Royal Court in light of the company director Max Stafford-Clark's resignation following allegations of sexual harassment. A joint statement from Out of Joint and the Royal Court has been released;
"The departure of Max Stafford-Clark from Out of Joint and the recent allegations in the media have coincided with Royal Court's response to the spotlight on our industry and the rigorous interrogation of our own practices. On our stage we recently heard 150 stories of sexual harassment and abuse therefore the staging of this work,with its themes of grooming and abuses of power on young women, on that same stage now feels highly conflictual"
I have to say I am deeply disappointed by this decision. It may come from a very sympathetic and well meaning place but it doesn't mean it is the right thing to do. Plays are there to make people think and removing a contentious play from the season at a time when he subject matter is at its most relevant is, to my mind, a very simple and somewhat appeasing solution to a situation that demands attention and discussion. This decision feels like a rejection of the authentic voice of a truly great and original playwright who dared to write about real life issues that she personally experienced. To censor those who shine a light on the truth is not how anyone should deal with those who instigate abuse or treat young women in an exploitative manner.
But most of all I feel it is a terrible decision for the extremely talented cast and production team who have done nothing but entertain audiences and bring plays to the people, yet they are being punished for the actions of their former company director. I think it is a great pity that their hard work and commitment has been treated in such a manner and I think it a real shame that there are audiences out there who will not have the opportunity to see a truly remarkable revival of an '80s classic that really deserved attention and acclaim.
A theatre is not meant to be a safe space. The stage is not an area where concerns and issues are to be shied away from, it ought to be the home of unpalatable truths and a place to provoke thought, reaction and comment. Entertainment doesn't have to be disposable fluff, and the Royal Court need to realise that.