The Daily Mail’s legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre has in the past admitted that some of his columnists are dinosaurs: this is a necessary part of his being able to have his much-discussed “conversation” with all those Daily Mail readers. The implication is that some of those readers are dinosaurs too - even, if the latest non-trivial mishap to hit one of those pundits is typical, in their views on race.
Harry Potter and the Gobshite of Arslikhan
Not for the first time, the name in the firing line is that of the odious Quentin Letts (let’s not), whose casual racism not only got through the entire Mail editorial process, but is now being brushed off as if it never happened. Letts had been to the theatre, and in Stratford on Avon, not usually the kind of place to inspire controversy.
So what had he gone to see? “Two gorgeous lurchers nearly steal the show in a largely forgotten 1700 comedy by Mary Pix. Originally The Beau Defeated, it has been renamed The Fantastic Follies Of Mrs Rich and stars Sophie Stanton as a deep-pocketed London widow who aches to marry a titled gent”. So what was his problem?
What's so f***ing wrong with my c***ing hacks slagging off black f***ing actors, c***?!?
Quent disapproved of a non-white actor among the company. After telling readers “Other cast members are less persuasive”, off he went. “Poor Leo Wringer is miscast as the older Clerimont … There is no way he is a honking Hooray of the sort that has infested the muddier reaches of England’s shires for centuries. He is too cool, too mature, not chinless or daft or funny enough”. And Letts could not allow himself to leave it there.
“Was Mr Wringer cast because he is black? If so, the RSC’s clunking approach to politically correct casting has again weakened its stage product … I suppose its managers are under pressure from the Arts Council to tick inclusiveness boxes, but at some point they are going to have to decide if their core business is drama or social engineering”.
The RSC was less than impressed: “We are shocked and deeply troubled by Quentin Letts' review of The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich in which he seems to demonstrate a blatantly racist attitude to a member of the cast. We are very proud to be working with every member of the Company each of whom has been asked to join us in Stratford because we value and recognise their unique skills and talents”.
Or, as Mel Brooks might have put it, Up Yours. The chorus of disapproval is still growing, typified by Martin Belam of the Guardian, who observed “Quentin Letts saw an actor he didn’t enjoy while reviewing theatre and literally wrote down ‘Was Mr Wringer cast because he is black?’ It got all the way through the editorial production process. I applaud the RSC for putting out a statement about it”. What say Quent to that?
Out came the tin ear. “Am told RSC has attacked me for racism. Oh come off it. I was merely questioning a clumsy colour-blind casting policy which itself patronises actors and audiences”. But Stop Funding Hate is already on the case.
The group has already said this about the RSC’s statement: “It takes courage to speak out against the Daily Mail given their track record. The Royal Shakespeare Company are taking a brave stance here”. Someone will be having words with advertisers.
All forms of racism are unacceptable. Even those of which the Daily Mail approves.