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Ipswich High School for Girls defends cancelling play because of fears over bad language and child abuse subject matter

PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 October 2015

David Acton, Hannah Hutch and Patti Love in Jane Wenham-The Witch of Walkern, which is touring Suffolk and Essex

David Acton, Hannah Hutch and Patti Love in Jane Wenham-The Witch of Walkern, which is touring Suffolk and Essex

Archant

A leading Suffolk private school has cancelled a play by an Oscar-winning and National Theatre-sponsored playwright because of fears about bad language and its subject matter which covers child abuse.

Ipswich High School for GirlsIpswich High School for Girls

The play, Jane Wenham – The Witch of Walkern, is by the award-winning actress and writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz and has been produced as a co-production by Out of Joint, Watford Palace Theatre and Arcola Theatre, in association with Ipswich-based Eastern Angles.

The play covers witch-hunts in the 17th Century and is touring community and arts centres across Suffolk and Essex.

It has been offered to schools as suitable for GCSE and A-level pupils.

Eastern Angles has arranged a number of school shows, including at Ipswich High School for Girls which decided to cancel its performance.

A spokeswoman for the school said they had “grave reservations” about the play’s content, including references to child abuse.

Karen Goddard, for Eastern Angles, said: “We are disappointed that they felt they couldn’t allow us to present the play to their teenage pupils. It should be pointed out that we would never offer anything to schools that was inappropriate for them.”

Max Stafford Clark, artistic director of Out of Joint, said in a statement: “It is deeply troubling that a play which so eloquently examines witch persecutions from a feminist perspective, and looks at the way society treated and continues to treat women, is considered inappropriate for an audience of young women.

“The school has also said that the inclusion of swearing is inappropriate, a policy which presumably rules out much contemporary drama or fiction for study. There is nothing gratuitous in the play. It is as frank – and as wry, humane and poetic – as one would expect from a play by Rebecca.”

The school spokeswoman said caution was needed when presenting “sensitive issues” to pupils which they have a duty of care to.

“The decision to cancel the performance of Jane Wenham at Ipswich High School was taken after careful consideration and consultation between the drama teachers and also the senior management team who are responsible for the welfare and safeguarding of all our pupils,” she said.

“The concern about the use of swear words was secondary to the references made to child abuse which are explicitly detailed.

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