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Hare’s highlights: TV writer on bobbys and Brexit

As his first BBC thriller series Collateral heads towards its conclusion, playwright Sir David Hare tells Gerald Isaaman ‘I love annexing new areas of subject matter’

22 February, 2018 — By Gerald Isaaman

Carey Mulligan as Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie, investigating the murder of a pizza delivery man, in Collateral. Photo: BBC

INSPIRATION often comes in the strangest ways, even if you are as prolific – and multi-award winning – as the playwright David Hare.

You certainly don’t expect it walking up or down Church Row, Hampstead’s Georgian gem leading to the parish church of St John’s, a familiar route for Hare from his home in Frognal to his writing studio on the edge of the Heath where the artist Mark Gertler once called home.

So those gripped by Collateral, Hare’s first thriller series for the BBC, will be surprised to hear Sir David confess: “Yes, I did have the idea for the series walking down Church Row and watching a pizza man deliver to the mansion flats there.

“The series is actually set in south London, but I’ve always liked mansion flats. And so the ones in Church Row always seem especially alluring.”

Indeed, they stand opposite the house where HG Wells, author of Things to Come and The War of the Worlds, lived for a time, which provides an intellectual life to Hare’s new saga that opened with the brutal murder of a pizza delivery man.

He turned out to be an illegal Syrian refugee living in a garage with two women relatives who made the pilgrimage across Europe seeking sanctuary in south London.

“It seems likely to me that the 21st century is going to be marked by the mass migration of people, escaping war, persecution and poverty,” explains 70-year-old Hare. “The retaliatory instinct of rich nations has been to throw up walls, and to forbid entry to the many who want to trade in supposedly free markets.

“In the coming episodes I try to throw some light on our detention system, because so few people know about it. It’s been the subject of a few documentary films, but almost no fiction. I love annexing new areas of subject matter, both for stage and screen.

“The Collateral series portrays a series of British institutions – police, detention service, army, church and Westminster politics – and asks why so many people feel they are trusted to exercise so little initiative within these institutions.

Sir David Hare

“They often seem to be organised in a way which prevents individuals showing judgement and doing good.”

Even forgetting the machinations of Brexit, Hare is highly critical of today’s politicians, who have lost the respect of countless voters, some 12 new political parties having been launched, even one called the Sensible Party.

“I don’t think our political leaders are facing the fundamental contradiction in their own beliefs,” says Hare. “They claim to believe in free market capitalism, and yet how is a free market possible without free movement of people?

“Brexit and Trump are both malign symptoms of this contradiction. Trump wants America first and throws up walls. Brexiteers want to put Britain first and close down borders. The haves are not just dominating the have-nots. They’re actually telling them to go away. How can that be a free market?”

Hare admits that he lets his imagination run free once his drama is under way and didn’t visit any pizza parlours in advance.

“But I know quite a lot about the police already,” he points out. “I did visit detention centres and talk to some of the women who are waiting, locked up on appeal against being sent back to places the authorities call their ‘home’ after living for up to 30 years in Britain.”

Creating strong female roles in Collateral – Carey Mulligan, although pregnant at the time, plays his Detective Inspector Kip Glaspie investigating the murder of the pizza man – is also an arena where Hare has long had experience.

“I have been writing these kind of roles for women since I first started in 1970,” explains Hare, who was knighted in 1998 after a succession of major awards and Oscar nominations. “For me, equality means not just a strong, independent heroine, but the distribution of crucial parts throughout the cast list.

“With Carey Mulligan, Billie Piper, Deborah Findlay, Ahd Kamel, Nicola Walker, Saskia Reeves, Hayley Squires and Jeany Spark in Collateral, I felt sure that something way beyond justice would be done to the parts I’d written.”

He worked closely on the scripts too with SJ Clarkson, who is the director of the four-part series. “We auditioned and rehearsed together, and I visited the set as much as I could, says Hare.

“Being a natural collaborator, she also asked me to the editing room. But I left SJ alone to do the night shots in the Kennington Road. I’m too old for that malarkey.”

Meanwhile, for theatre lovers there is to be a revival of Hare’s play The Moderate Soprano, all about the founding of Glyndebourne, at the Duke of York’s Theatre in April. It will star Nancy Carroll and Endeavour’s Roger Allam.

“My new play comes on at the National Theatre in October,” adds Hare. “It’s called I’m Not Running, and is about whether single-issue politics – now so fashionable – is or isn’t more effective than old-fashioned joined-up politics.”

Collateral continues on Mondays at 9pm on BBC2. Catch up on the iPlayer.

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