The playwright slams broadcaster as ‘irresponsible’ for passing on his play about London’s Covent Garden after seven months
David Hare has hit out at the BBC after it rejected his latest play, The Second Wife, as unsuitable for its autumn schedule.
The playwright said he was “astonished” to be passed over and told the BBC to “pick its heads up”.
Sir Ralph Fiennes, one of the stars of The Second Wife, and actress Hayley Atwell in character. Photograph: Tony Award/Tolino Group
The play takes place on a street in Covent Garden and centres on a conjugal spat between the fictional couple. The ABC, a 1930s vehicle for Hugh Laurie, was a successful television play, made into a film and released in 2009.
In a letter to the BBC’s drama controller Kate Harwood, Hare said: “I was astonished to hear that The Second Wife [which also stars Ralph Fiennes and Hayley Atwell] had been submitted for autumn 2017, but for reasons I will not go into, your independent drama team has now advised me that it is now available for an autumn 2018 slot, but I am very disappointed.
“Despite my enormous respect for the BBC and especially its commissioning editor Kate Harwood – a chance to develop ideas has been offered to me that I cannot hope to accept; a critical and commercial partner for such a rich piece of writing is being lost for a three-play season next year; there seems no problem why such a brilliant adaptation should now not be available on your service.
“This is a very divisive, controversial, and dangerous play. How can the BBC be so irresponsible as to let that happen? Please note that my adaptation of Margaret Drabble’s novel A Woman of No Importance was turned down last year by the BBC and is now available on BBC iPlayer.”
Hare said the playwright’s classic 1984 political drama, The Hours, was among the work in BBC print books and the TV adaptation of Betrayal was out on iPlayer.
He said: “I feel –‘me’ – quite furious at the chance for this play – I hope that you will consider it. I did not put forward an original casting. This is the talent of Ralph Fiennes (truly extraordinary) and Hayley Atwell (extraordinary). Please consider what I have written, and give this comedy play a chance.”
The BBC said it did not comment on individual productions or commissions.