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Ronald Harwood: ‘I’ve stopped going to the theatre – it’s too political’

Ronald Harwood. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock Ronald Harwood. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock
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Playwright Ronald Harwood has claimed too many plays are lecturing audiences, revealing that he avoids seeing most shows because of the “political will that dominates the theatre”.

Harwood, best known for his play The Dresser – which is currently running in London – also reiterated his views on women playing male Shakespeare roles, labelling it “political casting”. He claimed he had no interest in seeing Glenda Jackson playing King Lear.

The playwright was speaking as part of a Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts event, in which he was interviewed by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg.

When asked which emerging playwrights he enjoys today, Harwood revealed that he does not go to the theatre much anymore.

He said this was partly due to his health, but also because of the nature of many productions.

“I cannot bear being lectured at in the theatre and there is a sort of political will that dominates the theatre – ‘I am going to change the world by telling them they are all doing this wrongly’. I don’t like it so I don’t go,” he explained.

Addressing comments he made earlier this year about women playing male roles in Shakespeare, Harwood called it “gender casting” and added: “I am not into that. It’s sort of political casting. I have a very dull imagination. It’s a woman, so I believe it should be a woman. I don’t believe in cross-gender casting. I mean, I don’t want to see Glenda Jackson’s King Lear.”

Harwood also revealed that his initial comments about the issue, made in an interview with the Times, had resulted in a barrage of hate mail.

In the Times interview, he claimed it was “insulting” for women to take male roles.

“I brought the world down on my shoulders [saying that]. I’ve never known anything like it – emails and hate mails,” he said.

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