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A playwright's take on election theatrics

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Will Gompertz | 10:24 UK time, Friday, 23 April 2010

One well-groomed, articulate, charming, intelligent, middle-aged, middle-class white man has been the stand-out player in the first weeks of the election campaign, and that's David.

David Hare

Not David C, in this case, but David H: playwright David Hare. His columns in the Guardian are a blessed tonal relief from the deafening dissonance generated by the majority of election comment in the papers. I've enjoyed all of his card-game analogies and short-form interviews, but Tuesday's effort was exceptional.

DH's pieces are well-crafted, precise and witty and do not resort to cynicism (well, only a bit). It's grown-up editorial, guided by a personality that is revealed with modesty and subtlety. Most contemporary columns, sad to say, are akin to the finger-jabbing rants of a drunken bore at a party.

The other day, I asked DH why he chooses to write plays that fictionalise his take on current affairs instead of developing his journalism.

First, he thinks that a single piece of journalism, written in the moment when events are still unfolding, can provide only a partial account. Much better, he says, to gather a variety of reports and opinions over time, and only when the story has come to some sort of resolution to add the element of historical perspective and create a work that encompasses the whole. A play, he thinks, is the best device to achieve this.

And second, there is the shared experience of theatre. David Hare would far rather create a work that is mutually experienced by a few hundred people than a printed text that is consumed individually, privately and at different times. He says this from the position of both a playwright and a theatre-goer.

For DH, journalism is but a flirtation; theatre is his true love.

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