Banned, play that challenged the BNP

Dudley council accused of caving in to far right after pulling plug on 'Moonfleece'

Arts Correspondent,Arifa Akbar
Tuesday 30 March 2010 00:00 BST

A critically acclaimed play about the British National Party and homophobia which has toured the most racially sensitive areas of the country in an effort to "start a conversation about the far right" has been barred from a stage in Dudley for fear of community disapproval.

The play's production team yesterday expressed their dismay at the decision to pull Moonfleece from the Mill Theatre in Dudley's Dormston Centre, and claimed the move was tantamount to appeasing right-wing and BNP sympathisers.

The play – the latest offering from the controversial Philip Ridley – was scheduled to be staged in the West Midlands on Thursday, two days before a rally by the far-right group the English Defence League is due to take place in the same town.

Last week, the producer, Will Young, received a message from the theatre informing him that, after lengthy discussions, it had decided not to stage the play for fear of offending the local community. Yesterday, Dudley council said: "The booking was cancelled as the school (in which the theatre is based) did not feel some of the issues raised within the play were suitable for a school and community setting."

Ridley told The Independent that he was outraged by the "hypocrisy" of the decision and said he was "heart-broken" that the play would not be staged in an area where its racial issues were relevant. This month the play opened in east London near Barking and Dagenham, which polled 19.4 per cent in favour of the BNP in last year's European elections.

Young said they had deliberately planned a tour that took in areas where the BNP was popular – Bradford, Leicester, Birmingham, Doncaster and Dudley – before returning to London in April for stints at the Riverside Studios and Greenwich Theatre. Some residents in Dudley recently began a protest aimed at the building of a mosque, which was finally refused planning permission.

"It's about homophobia and racism and he [Ridley] didn't want it to play in a theatre made up of your usual theatre-goers, who are relatively removed from the issues to which the play relates. So we went looking for areas with people who are not big theatre audiences," added Young. He said he had been told by the theatre that the area had very strong support for the BNP and there was concern about complaints from this faction.

Moonfleece centres on a young, right-wing activist who is forced to reassess his beliefs as the brutality of the new-look BNP is exposed, and has a multi-cultural cast including Sean Verey and Krupa Pattani. David Mercatali, the play's director, said he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision, especially as the play had sparked interesting reactions in the areas it had already shown, which include Bradford and Birmingham's Aston area.

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