Monarchy and race latest victims of Beaton's satire

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The Independent Culture

After putting Tony Blair on trial, the playwright Alistair Beaton is setting another cat among the pigeons by speculating on the possibility of a Muslim monarchy.

In a new comedy for the stage, Beaton is examining the nature of multiculturalism in a country where the monarch heads the Church of England.

"The play is essentially a re-write of the 1936 abdication crisis but instead of the 'unsuitable' person being an American divorcee, the handsome young heir to the throne who is about to become king falls in love with a Muslim," Beaton said.

King Edward VIII stepped down as king in the face of Establishment and political opposition to his desire to marry the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson.

King of Hearts targets the "preposterous" Act of Settlement which rules that a monarch must be Church of England and may not marry a Catholic - though there is no specific opposition to a Muslim.

All the royals in the play are fictional as are the politicians, although some references to real characters may be deduced, Beaton said. However, the piece is strictly accurate about the factual basis against which any such love match would be played.

"I am sticking to the details of the constitution, which is more and more incredible and arcane the more we find out about it," he said. "We have effectively, a state church and yet we live in a multi-faith culture, a culture of multi faiths and no faiths. [Prince] Charles has talked about being the Defender of Faiths. There's something in the air. In satirical terms, this takes it further. But that makes it sound pompous - it's a comedy."

King of Hearts follows in a long line of provocative work by Beaton. The Trial of Tony Blair prompted national and international headlines when it was broadcast on More4 and Channel 4 last week. It posited a future where Mr Blair, the departing Prime Minister, is taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to be indicted for the illegal invasion of Iraq.

There was also A Very Social Secretary, about David Blunkett's personal life, Follow My Leader, on the Bush-Blair case for the war, and Feelgood, a satire with a central character with a passing resemblance to the PM's former communications chief, Alastair Campbell.

The play, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, will tour the country from 8 February finishing with a run at Hampstead Theatre, London.

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