David Hare play on British New Labour

This video is called Stuff Happens set construction timelapse.

From British daily The Guardian:

Gethsemane: David Hare‘s satire crucifies New Labour

* Charlotte Higgins, chief arts writer

* Wednesday August 13 2008

David Hare anatomised the failure of privatisation in The Permanent Way; in Stuff Happens, he turned a ruthless eye on the double-think and culpable naivety that led to the Iraq war. And in his new play, Hare dramatises his final and bitter disenchantment with New Labour, the Guardian can reveal.

Gethsemane, which opens at the National Theatre in November, features a group of characters that bear a strong resemblance to the cabinet and confidants of former prime minister Tony Blair.

A source close to the production said a major character in the play is the party‘s chief fundraiser, Otto Fallon, a north London Jewish former hairdresser who, as a music producer, has in the past created a number of boy bands. Audiences will perhaps note a likeness to Blair’s close friend and former chief fundraiser, Lord Levy, a north London Jewish former accountant who made his fortune managing stars such as Alvin Stardust and Chris Rea, and who founded the label Magnet Records.

The prime minister of the play, named Alex, is a regular kind of guy, in a Tony Blair kind of a way. The home secretary is a woman named Meredith, whose husband, Jack, a wealthy businessman, is described as having a daring portfolio based in many different countries. No great imaginative leap is needed to link the character to Tessa Jowell, culture secretary under Blair, and her husband, David Mills.

During the course of the play Fallon makes a notably cynical speech, lacking the force of ideas or ideals, in which he describes what New Labour is. We gather together all the most competent people in the country, he says, and call them, for the sake of argument, New Labour.

Fallon rescues the party from a crisis involving the home secretary and her husband, who is embroiled in a number of court cases. In the second act she goes to the prime minister and offers to divorce her husband, if that will make things easier for the government.

The prime minister asks her what her husband thinks. She replies that she hasn’t spoken to him yet. The PM says that he fears the government could not survive the spectacle of a home secretary’s husband appearing in handcuffs in a foreign country, so she suggests it is put out that her marriage has come to an undignified end with no acrimony on either side.

The situation clearly mirrors that when Jowell announced her intention to separate from Mills in 2006, after Italian prosecutors had been investigating claims that Mills had received a bribe of £344,000 in return for positive testimony on behalf of Silvio Berlusconi in a corruption trial. Jowell was cleared by Blair of breaking the ministers’ code of conduct, because she had not known about the money, which Mills claimed came from another client. But some persisted in believing that Jowell had sacrificed her marriage for the sake of political expediency – a line that Hare’s play appears to take.

Gethsemane is a title that offers itself up to a number of metaphorical interpretations. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 22, Jesus and his disciples go there to pray after the Last Supper.

The keynote of Gethsemane in the Gospels is anguish and betrayal: this is where the corrupt Judas Iscariot helps the “chief priests and captains” to capture Jesus.

The National Theatre, though it receives annual state funding of £18m, has never held back from criticising the government. Aside from Hare’s earlier plays, under artistic director Nicholas Hytner, it has sent out highly charged messages about contemporary politics through new writing, such as David Edgar’s Playing With Fire, about New Labour’s misjudged schemes and initiatives to improve race relations.

It has also done so through pointed productions of the classics, whether Hytner’s 2003 production of Henry V, which alluded clearly to the Iraq dossier, or Katie Mitchell’s recent The Trojan Women, which examined the tragedy of “collateral damage” and the ugly fallout in post-conflict zones.

Though Jowell was a supporter of the National Theatre, and especially its Travelex £10 ticket scheme, when she was culture secretary from 2001-07, she crossed swords with Hytner. He last year attacked her diversion of Lottery funds from the arts to the Olympics as characterised by “a spectacular lack of logic”.

Hare v the system

Racing Demon (1990)
Examined schisms within the Church of England. Through priests Lionel and Tony, Hare presented a hopeless vision of a failing church.

Murmuring Judges (1991)
Targeted problems within the criminal justice system and corruption within police and courts. Hope offered by an Antiguan lawyer and a police officer who refuse to accept injustice.

The Absence of War (1993)
Focused on Labour’s defeat at the 1992 election. Party leader George Jones is remoulded by spin doctors, leading to a loss of his political convictions.

The Permanent Way (2003)
Portrayed the failure of railway privatisation, told by civil servants, railway workers, survivors of rail disasters and relatives of those who died.

Stuff Happens (2004)
Analysis of the diplomatic events leading to the Iraq war. Title taken from a speech by Donald Rumsfeld.

Lauren Goodchild

See also here.

Play review here.

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