Social and Cultural Events

Philip Hedley and El Publico

The Theatre Royal has been at the heart of Newham for decades, but in 1988 it came under criticism as the Director, Philip Hedley had to explain his choice of play in the Newham Recorder. The play in question was “El Publico”, most often translated as 'The Public', written by Federico Garcia Lorca. The play was called “disgusting and depraved” as it has a strong homosexual theme.

Federico Garcia Lorca was a playwright, poet and theatre director of international renown. He was executed during the Spanish Civil War, the motivation for the assassination remains unclear as both political and personal motives are suggested. His homosexual tendencies have also been alluded to as the reason for his murder.

The play remains controversial to this day, and survives in only one incomplete draft. It was not published by the writer himself, but by his friend Rafael Martínez Nadal in 1970’s. The two full manuscripts of the play that existed, apparently vanished in the Spanish Civil War. Garcia Lorca described the play as “impossible theatre”, and probably never meant for it to be staged when he wrote it in 1929-30. It is a play about theatrical productions, and as the title suggests, the audience and its misconceptions. It is structured around a production of Romeo and Juliet and it features homosexual love which is why the play is so controversial. However, the message is not just a justification of homosexual love; it is all love and the illusions of theatre that the play is concerned with. This was the first time that the play, translated by Henry Livings, was staged in the United Kingdom. Philip Hedley defended his decision, and responded to the comments by saying:

“Apparently some people find our choice of plays too exciting for them.” Mr Hedley further defended his choice by saying that out of the 60 production he has staged in the 80’s this is the first one with a particular interest for gay people, and “the ten per cent of Newham ratepayers who are presumably gay have more reason to complain.”

He also mentions that the theatre is very proud to have obtained the rights to the play and it is 'a feather in Theatre Royal’s cap'. He admits the play has a strong homosexual theme, still 'we expect it to appeal to a wide audience. We also expect many people won’t like it.' Furthermore, Mr Hedley responded after two of the Newham Recorder correspondents complained about the amount of money the theatre received as a grant from the Newham Council, arguing that with the grant, they could offer seats for £1.50 to Newham senior citizens, the unemployed and students, otherwise they would have to charge up to £21.

Mr Hedley should be commended for his staunch refusal to bow to pressure, and for making LGBT people feel more included in the community.

Social and Cultural Events
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