England people not very nice

Letter: Why I’ve withdrawn from National debate | Stage | The Guardian

A letter from Rabina Khan (this one, possibly) on why she’s pulled out of the debate on the National Theatre play, England People Very Nice, which has been widely accused of being racist. The script was not what turned her against it; what did that was the audience’s reaction to it:

I eagerly accepted the invitation from the National Theatre to speak on the discussion Immigration in Literature in April as part of series of platforms on the play England People Very Nice (Letters, 3 January). I have now decided to withdraw. I had read the script and joined the campaign organised by playwright Hussain Ismail. I still decided to speak at the platform. However, at a meeting Nicholas Hytner refused our delegation a major head-to-head public debate.

I was still intent on speaking at the platform in April until I saw the play last Saturday. Reading the script had not prepared me for the sea of white, middle-class people falling about in laughter at silly jokes about minority communities. This was brought home to me when at one point a character in the play used the term “nigger” and everybody burst out laughing. My daughter asked why people were laughing at the word “nigger”. She understood it to be offensive.

I haven’t seen it and don’t know whether I will (money’s a bit tight at the moment), but if such jokes can raise a lot of laughs at the National Theatre, it says a lot about the attitudes of some white middle-class people.

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