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A play on paedophilia

Writing a play about child abuse isn't easy. But it helped when the home office asked me to stop

By Stephen Brown   April 2009

When Richard Bean began writing England People Very Nice, his play that opened at the National Theatre in February, did he worry about racism? It is a boisterous pageant of immigration and assimilation over four centuries in Bethnal Green. There are complex figures and human sympathy, but the play is awash with cartoonish stereotypes: randy French Huguenots, incestuous bog Irish, intolerant Muslim radicals, self-hating Hampstead liberals and thieving cockneys.

Some critics admired the play, others attacked it as crude. More than one complained that it went for big laughs on a subject—race—that demanded sober, probing realism. I, too, understand the…

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