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

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.

6 comments

  • Perhaps you should watch it before commenting? The language isn't bad, it's appropriate for the era in which this play is set. There's also very little of it. Jane Wenham is a superb piece of writing about a historical witch trial that would act as a history lesson for older school children. While it's set in Hertfordshire, the subject matter's connection to events in East Anglia should have resonated with the moron who pulled the plug on it. Oh well, at least the kids can do media studies with nonsense like EastEnders as their topic...

    Report this comment

    Paul Pearce-Couch

    Friday, October 9, 2015

  • Maybe the school should get hold of some "typical" scripts from episodes of the most popular soaps (all of which are transmitted to a viewing public of millions, before teenager's bedtimes, each and every day, with optional online 'watch anytime' players also available). Murder, theft, arson, incest, sexual assault and abuse, drug abuse, infidelity, physical violence, even death as a side effect of plane and tram crashes. Coronemmerdale Enders has it all, in spades, instantly accessible in the connected age. (Mind you, in soap la-la land there is never any swearing... obviously bad words are far more damaging to teenagers and adults alike, than the graphic portrayal of all the previously mentioned subjects). Does the school really believe that in banning this play they have "protected" their precious charges against anything at all?

    Report this comment

    Geoff Stevenson

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015

  • It has been described as that, but if you're conveying realistic characters, people do sometimes use strong language. It's worth saying, the play is hardly Reservoir Dogs on that front. There is very little.

    Report this comment

    JonBradfield

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

  • It's a shame that safeguarding and PC are being used to stop children from seeing this play. The content can easily be found in Shakespeare or Dickens or has the library been censored too

    Report this comment

    Transol

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

  • It's good to see the school has the welfare of its pupils at heart. Who are these outsiders with a vested interest in promoting their own values to criticise?

    Report this comment

    amsterdam81

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

  • Congratulations to the person(s) responsible for having the courage to cancel especially because of the bad language. There is far too much of it already. It has been described as the lazy person's way of speaking.

    Report this comment

    DALINE

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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