I found myself rather agreeing with this, but since Will says it, unforgivably, in front of his youngest child, who is understandably upset, perhaps I wasn’t supposed to. Later, Will says some unacceptable things about “sexually frustrated Yorkshiremen of a Wahhabi Sunni persuasion”, along with some home truths about English/British self-hatred and Islamist contempt for the infidel. Theo, the loveable GP (who is about to retire to France where he will renounce cricket to “fit in”), is profoundly upset. “Will, Will, Will,” he protests, while some of the others laugh, “what’s happened to tolerance?” “You’re the one leaving the country,” Will replies acidly. These questions are not made dishonestly simple, and audiences can conclude what it will.
Another new state-of-the-nation play, Shelagh Stephenson’s The Long Road, at the Soho Theatre, deals with the aftermath of a teenager’s stabbing by a young girl. His family struggles with grief and rage, and the mother and remaining son confront the murderess. Beautifully performed, and largely plausible, it still felt like a well-written handbook on restorative justice. The long road is the one to forgiveness and understanding, and it’s made clear that it is the road one should take. There’s something didactic and impersonal about the play; it showed, unlike The English Game, how difficult and rare it is to find the artistic alchemy which turns social issues into theatre.