(Kerrie O’Brien’s article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 3/6/2023; Photo: Sydney Morning Herald.)
What David Hare wants to write about at the moment is pretty simple: the fact that two billion of us are doing well in this world and six billion are not.
Often referred to as our greatest living playwright, the 75-year-old Englishman has written 39 plays, many about current events including conflict in the Middle East, media moguls and COVID-19. He received two Academy Award nominations for best-adapted screenplay for writing The Hours in 2002 and The Reader in 2008.
Sir David Hare is only now turning his attention to writing about men.
Speaking ahead of a talk in Melbourne this week, Hare says the huge gap between the haves and the have-nots is the issue of the 21st century. “Global capitalism is not currently delivering an equal way of living,” he says. “So we have this massive disparity between the rich and the poor, which gets greater all the time and makes societies demonstrably unhappier. That, of course, is what I would write about, but god knows how you write about it.”
To his mind, the best writers express something that needs to be said but which has not yet been articulated. What they should do – and what he aims to do – is find the gaps and challenge our preoccupations as a society. All the great playwrights – Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov and Moliere – were way ahead of what society was thinking.
Hare argues a lot of theatre produced today is pious. “I’ve never written the kind of play in which people are told what they already believe,” he says. “I’ve never written ‘rally around the flag’. I would rather not write than write stuff which confirms people in what they already believe.”
When Cate Blanchett starred in his play Plenty in London in the late 1990s, in the part made famous by Meryl Streep in the 1985 film adaptation, some audience members couldn’t cope.