Oxbridge hedonists and jobless rioters – sound familiar?

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Doug Lucie says his 1980s play about privilege and the disaffected still rings true

I wrote the play Hard Feelings – which will be revived tonight by Defibrillator Theatre at the Finborough – in early 1982, in the aftermath of the previous year's riots which had torn a great hole in the national fabric and shaken the government to act. The Scarman Report was commissioned, Sus laws were repealed, PACE was introduced and the impact of mass unemployment was assessed.

Like many other writers at the time, I felt a powerful urge to explore the causes of these violent and shocking riots, but I didn't want to approach the subject in a dry, analytical way – in any case, the causes were pretty obvious to most people: the government's economic policies had resulted in a huge increase in unemployment, and the improvements in social mobility most of us had taken for granted in the post-war period were being rolled back, just as inequality was once again on the rise.

Meanwhile, with the activities of the National Front throughout the preceding decade stoking racial tensions, and inner-city deprivation seemingly becoming an accepted fact of life, something malignant had been incubating for years.

And yet, among the comfortably-off, especially those of my generation, there was a confusing lack of engagement with what was happening, almost as if different sections of society were drifting inexorably apart without even noticing. But it seemed to me that far from not noticing, many people were consciously ignoring the social and political consequences of government policies. By the end of the decade, we saw that the "individualism" being encouraged from 1979 onwards would change the UK, if not for ever, then for the foreseeable future, but at this point we were groping our way through the birth-pangs of this movement which would have such far-reaching historic consequences.

So I opted to write a play about those members of my generation I knew at first-hand – Oxford graduates – and the ones I chose to highlight were the hedonistic, metropolitan free-floaters, for whom life was already mapped out. They would land the jobs people of their class and education were guaranteed, and they knew they were pretty much immune to the economic and social horrors being visited on the less privileged. When reality loomed, they simply looked the other way, while their euphoria/hangover lifestyle reflected the realities of boom and bust economics.

Is Hard Feelings still relevant today? I believe so. It hasn't been performed in London for nearly 25 years but the sort of spiteful, inexplicable cruelty of some of the characters is visible every day now on social media; the squeezed middle is still able to look the other way when it suits them, as when the vulnerable or disabled are stigmatised and punished; unemployment is worse now than at any time since that first great assault on manufacturing more than 30 years ago; social mobility is a thing of the past; inequality is now fully institutionalised; racial tensions are still being exacerbated by the far-right; the state still bristles, armed to the teeth against the terrorist threat and seeks to curtail civil liberties. Most of all, though, we seem to be a nation desperately trying to ignore the reality that the forces that brought about the desperation of the early 1980s now have us firmly by the throat and won't stop squeezing any time soon.

Despite the heavy nature of this interpretation of the situation, Hard Feelings is still best described as a comedy – a serious one – that tries to expose human folly through laughter. As a playwright I've always aimed to engage the audience's brain and stir its heart at the same time, and I hope that 30 years after its premiere, this play still does that.

'Hard Feelings' opens at the Finborough Theatre, London SW10 (0844 847 1652; finboroughtheatre.co.uk) from tonight

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
Arts and Entertainment

Grace Dent on TV

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us