Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Heretic.

Off to the Royal Court to see Richard Bean's latest satirical offering The Heretic, featuring a stunning central performance from Juliet Stevenson as Dr Nina Cassell, an earth science professor whose research has led her to dismiss as melodramatic the apocalyptic claims of the climate change lobby.

Bean has a neat line in mixing controversy with well observed humour and a sense of the ridiculous. His early epic sweeps of northern agriculture Harvest, and fishing Under the Whaleback brought to London audiences a elegy for a changing way of life. More recently his work has crudely tried find a populist and provocative way of questioning liberal sensitivity, firstly through the broad brush strokes of England People Very Nice and then more recently by drawing parallels between Irish Republicanism and al-Qaeda in The Big Fellah.

The Heretic is a return to form - discomforting the Court's audience by explicitly pitching environmental extremism against censorship and academic freedom against political expediency. As much as we despair of Cassell's seemingly blinkered research, we also despise the coercive and patronising way in which the institution seeks to silence her.

The script is peppered with wonderful lines and horribly recognisable situations. The HR officer trying to convince Cassell that a written record is needed for a verbal warning. A young student reminding her that 'ridicule has no place in student centred learning environments.'

Bean is still a naughty boy, playing to the gallery and flicking two fingers towards the soft complacency of the liberal intelligentsia. When the writing is as good as this, however, he almost gets away with it.

No comments: