Playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh has accused theatres of refusing to revive his work because he would not allow changes to the language, stating that “petty outrage” was the reason behind some venues wanting to make his plays more “palatable”.
He has called it a “major problem” and a “dangerous place” for writers, in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Earlier this year, his film The Banshees of Inisherin received nine Oscar nominations.
Steve Pemberton and Lily Allen are starring in the revival of The Pillowman. McDonagh’s 2003 play that explores a writer’s imprisonment by a totalitarian state. It is scheduled to be shown in London’s West End in June.
The free speech charity PEN International has partnered with the production to support “many of the values we promote such as the need for tolerance, critical thinking, and informed debate”.
“Only in the past few years have I had theatre companies refuse to do my plays, because they don’t like some of the wording in them,” McDonagh said.
They wanted to make some words “more palatable to them or what they think their audience is”, he said, despite him being “an established writer who sells tickets”.
In February, the authorities reversed their decision following criticism from high-profile authors, including Salman Rushdie, who labeled the move as censorship. Additionally, the spokesperson of the prime minister stated that it is important to preserve works of fiction and not to airbrush them.
Martin McDonagh has long courted controversy with his fictional work.
The Lieutenant of Inishmore
In 2006, McDonagh told the New Yorker magazine that he attempted to write a play, The Lieutenant of Inishmore. A work that would result in him getting killed.
The play satirised an IRA paramilitary returning home and violently avenging the death of his cat.
McDonagh stated that writers should not fear threats of personal injury despite the case of Salman Rushdie. Salman Rushdie faced death threats over his work. According to McDonagh, such threats might not actually exist anyway.
He told BBC Radio 4: “I do think it’s a good idea to write something that’s dangerous or explosive.”
McDonagh said state-sponsored censorship of writers is “not getting any better”, adding: “It seems like governments are becoming increasingly more scared of dissenting voices.”
A new production of his play The Pillowman will star Pemberton and Allen because they are “cool people and quite dangerous in their own art forms as well”, he says.
“I think it’s a very frightening time,” he added, suggesting new writers should “get off social media”, “stop checking the internet” and “go out and outrage”.