Play takes a swipe at 'political correctness': Harassment drama set to divide audiences
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Friday 11 June 1993
When it played in New York, it was the hottest topic in the sex war next to Woody and Mia. In its implied sympathy for a man accused of sexual harassment, and in its attack on the political correctness sweeping American campuses, it infuriated students and had couples screaming at each other as they left the theatre.
Oleanna by David Mamet, which opens at the Royal Court theatre in London at the end of this month, concerns a university student who accuses her lecturer of sexual harassment.
Whether he is guilty or not is left ambiguous. The girl brings charges that threaten his career and home life. Urged on by her student feminist group, she offers to drop the charges if he will remove certain books the group disapproves of from the prescribed list of texts.
Mamet evokes sympathy for the man, giving him a family and home life; the girl only has her feminist group. She was played in New York by Mamet's own wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, as whining and tyrannical. 'Don't call your wife baby,' she snarls at him at one point when he is on the phone. American critics thought the unevenness of the characterisation blurred the debate.
Audiences were often divided in their reactions by gender. Sometimes men applauded when the lecturer hit the girl in exasperation; women were reported seeking out those who had clapped.
The temperature was heightened by Mamet being the darling of radical and fringe theatre. An attack by him on the politically correct movement carries more force than an attack from the right.
The Royal Court production is directed by Harold Pinter, not thought of as antagonistic to the politically correct, though it remains to be seen whether in his hands the play becomes more even-handed.
Mamet's views do not seem in doubt. When he staged the play near the home of the politically correct, Harvard University, he said that putting it on there was like putting The Diary Of Anne Frank on in Dachau. He has let it be known that he has a close friend, a college lecturer, who has been accused of sexual harassment.
And the leading actor in the New York production, William H Macy, a long-time close friend of Mamet, said in an interview: 'Let's face facts. Things that we've been doing for a hundred years are now no longer acceptable and are even illegal in some places.'
- 2 Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Giant Minion terrorises drivers in Ireland as 40ft inflatable blocks traffic on Dublin road
Edward Heath 'raped 12 year-old boy at Mayfair flat'
Sabrina Corgatelli: US hunting tourist posts picture of herself with dead giraffe after Cecil the lion outrage
'Gene drive': Scientists sound alarm over supercharged GM organisms which could spread in the wild and cause environmental disasters
Labour leadership race: Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister, says Ken Clarke
Tom Cruise: Reporters banned from asking actor about Scientology
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
Calais crisis: The seven claims made about the migrants - and the reality
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...