David Hare's interest in all things political is evident as soon as we start talking. The first part of the conversation was dominated by questions from the playwright himself – starting from the Citizens' Committee Rallynext door at Suhrwardy Uddyan to the ease of access to political institutions in Bangladesh.
“I've written a new play on whether you can still achieve good through the political system in Britain, or whether you are best working outside it,” he explained.
While widely known as one of the greatest writers of political theatre, Hare began with talking about his love for all stories that have “heart”.
Referring to his adaption of a trilogy of Chekhov plays for the stage, he said, “I love that kind of 'hot drama'. I don't see anything wrong with passion within theatre. The reason I was drawn to the young Chekhov, crudely, was because it was romantic. Seagull is done a lot, but the other two, Platonov and Ivanov, less so, because they're a young man's play. It's before he developed the theory that the playwright shouldn't be seen in his work and he should only be revealed through his characters, and honestly I prefer his romantic genius over his classical genius.”
New stories, new mediums
Hare also shared his thoughts on his latest series Collateral featuring Carey Mulligan, out on Netflix in February 2018.
“Collateral is about illegal immigrants and people who live under the wire. Grenfell tower showed to an astonished world how many people live in Britain without permission and who are just trying to make an honest living.”
This is the first project for Netflix, and he admits to it being a wonderful experience and hugely different from being a writer for Hollywood.
“There is this incredible period on television now where companies like Netflix and Amazon are actually interested in good writers, and your story is your own that others won't fiddle around with. It's like this brief period of utopia where all the best stories are making it to the screens.”
Does that mean television is not only stealing the audience but taking away stories from theatre too?
“The danger of new writing in the theatre is that it can often just end up in the ghetto. There are very commendable attempts now to get new playwrights into the big spaces because if they don't get that sort of exposure, even the good stories can't survive and they end up on TV.”
“We lost a generation to television – the people who are now in their 40s who grew up looking at TV screens and started to look at their phones, they don't go to the theatre. But the young, the people we now call millennials, they're interested because they're sick to death of the screen. And more importantly, they're writing for theatre.”
There is this incredible period on television now where companies like Netflix and Amazon are actually interested in good writers, and your story is your own that others won't fiddle around with
“People are always saying that theatre is dying, but I always thought the theatre would come through. It's like saying print journalism is finished and the Kindle will replace books – not at the moment, no.”
'The great issue of the 21st century is mass migration'
After spending decades as one of the foremost writers of Britain, it's difficult to focus on only one of his works, yet theclichéd question must be asked – does he have any favourites?
“My book The Blue Touch Paper is about how I finally wrote the play Plenty – it took me 30 years of living – about a woman and her disillusionment in the post-war period. Definitely, the young play of mine that I'm quite pleased of. Since then, maybe Via Dolorosa which is about Israel and Palestine, and Racing Demons about the Church of England. It grips an audience I think mainly because it shows people trying to do good in the inner city.”
While on the topic of the youth and their receptiveness to not just new (and old) forms of entertainment but new ideas as well, Hare said, “What your generation is seeing is the shortcomings of global capitalism and the distinguishing feature of all systems across the world - inequality. People feel that very keenly, and they are more open to socialist ideologies now as a result.”
What do the youth have in store for them? According to Hare, “the sexual liberation of the 50s to the 70s was essentially about women's equality. The feminist revolution is clearly unfinished – whether professionally or in private lives, and the finishing of it is a complicated business.”
“The great issue of the 21st century is clearly going to be mass migration, and whether the rich are willing to surrender a little bit of the world they live in for other people to live too. They are knocking at the door and we are leaving Europe to keep people out. This is the big raging issue and that's what I'm trying to write about.”
He added with a rather wry smile, “However, the mating rituals of the young are undoubtedly a mystery to me. I'm not sure I would like to be young now.”