“This is Islamophobic shit,” cried an angry spectator two-thirds of the way through DV8’s investigation of multiculturalism. I was later told that the intervention was a “staged performance”. If so, it was both exceptionally convincing and dangerously counterproductive, since I spent the rest of the evening wondering whether it contained a measure of truth.
Michael Billington reviews “Can We Talk About This?”, a show at the National Theatre in London created by Lloyd Newson.
Sarfraz Manzoor has his reservations too:
The overall impact of watching Can We Talk About This? was like watching a Melanie Phillips column from the Daily Mail turned into a dance performance. Without context the show felt relentless, like being cornered by a pub bore with ready access to Wikipedia. The title of the show is an enquiry, but Can We Talk About This? felt, to me, like the work of someone who had already decided on the answer long before asking the question.
Update: See also Sunder Katwala, who writes:
It is surprising to see such a naively uncritical portrayal of the far right populist Dutch MP Geert Wilders on the National Theatre stage. Wilders features simply as a victim of censorship, wanting to show his film Fitna at the House of Lords, and being prevented by a Muslim politician, threatening a disruptive mob. In a play covering Wilders, free speech and censorship, why omit his call for the Koran to be banned? Or his proposal of a 1000 euro headscarf licence, a punitive tax on religious expression, to provide a provocative and polarising election talking point.
Update 2: Kenan Malik adds:
In the opening scene, the Bradford headmaster Ray Honeyford is presented as a nice, moderate, if conservative, figure, only looking out for the children in his care. To describe Honeyford as “conservative” is a bit like describing Enoch Powell as “conservative”…. Honeyford, in fact, held Powellite views on race, immigration and diversity.
In 1984, while headmaster of Bradford’s Drummond Middle School, he wrote an essay on “Education and Race: An Alternative View” in The Salisbury Review(which, too, was not a “conservative” but a reactionarymagazine)…. Honeyford’s critique was as much of what he called “multi-racialism” as of what is now called multiculturalism. He was hostile to immigration, contemptuous of non-British cultures and possessed of a little-Englander view. His comments on Caribbean culture give a flavour of his attitudes:
“‘Cultural enrichment’ is the approved term for the West Indian’s right to create an ear-splitting cacophony for most of the night to the detriment of his neighbour’s sanity, or for the Notting Hill Festival whose success or failure is judged by the level of street crime which accompanies it.”
Elsewhere in the essay Honeyford talks of the “hysterical political temperament of the Indian subcontinent”, lambasts a “half-educated and volatile Sikh [who] usurped the privileges of the chair” at a meeting, describes Pakistan as “a country which cannot cope with democracy”, and pins the blame for the educational failure of minority children on “An influential group of black intellectuals of aggressive disposition, who know little of the British traditions of understatement, civilised discourse and respect for reason”.