Tim Walker, a theatre critic for the New European, has already seen his creation Bloody Difficult Women – directed by Stephen Unwin – delight, startle and sometimes horrify audiences in London, but has insisted he is extra excited to see it hit the Assembly Rooms stage next week for the duration of August.
The play – which Walker describes as a “desperate cry for us to grow up in our politics” – focuses largely on businesswoman Miller who took the UK Government to court in 2016 over its authority to trigger article 50 without parliamentary approval after the Brexit vote. Both the High Court and Supreme Court eventually ruled Parliament had to legislate before the Government could invoke Article 50.
But it also takes audiences right up to the present day, looking at Miller’s other major case in 2019 where she successfully challenged the Government’s prorogation of Parliament under Boris Johnson and even an event which only occurred last week, when May refused to applaud Johnson as he finished up his final Prime Minister’s Questions.
The play has been written by theatre critic Tim Walker
Walker, who advised Miller on her media strategy in both cases against the Government, also delves into events playing out in newspaper offices in 2016 and in particular the Daily Mail’s treatment of Miller under the editorship of Paul Dacre, who is played by Andrew Woodall in the production.
Walker – who has previously worked for the Daily Mail – insists it not possible to have a “sensible” conversation about Brexit anymore in England and thinks theatre there has been “pathetic” in addressing political issues in recent years.
And he said he was excited to see what reaction he gets north of the Border.
He said: “It was an interesting idea for it to transfer to Scotland.
We were very touched and flattered when we were offered this opportunity. We got a very youthful audience coming along [in London] because they all felt there was no piece of drama in England that had accepted what on earth is happening to our politics.
“Theatre on this side of the border [England] has been pathetic in not really talking about what is happening in our country. Down here [England] it’s not possible to have a sensible conversation about Brexit anymore. We can’t really handle the truth.
“I don’t expect an easy ride in Scotland, but I do think your media hasn’t been as compromised as the media on this side of the border [England]. At least you’ll [Scotland critics] come along and give an honest opinion.
“I think your media has behaved honourably and I don’t know what’s happened to newspapers this side of the border. It’s horrified me.
“What I like is Boris Johnson does not have a huge fan base in Edinburgh, and so I anticipate people will come along and they will be prepared to give it a chance. I think they’ll be honest and I feel excited by that.”
The play has so far attracted the attention of well-known names such as actor Ian McKellen, Tony Blair’s former press secretary Alistair Campbell, former Daily Mail editor Geordie Grieg – of particular note given the paper refused to review the show after Dacre’s demands to see the script in advance were rejected – and Miller herself.
WALKER said he was left “open-mouthed” on some nights in February and March – when the show ran at London’s Riverside Studios – after seeing the number of celebrities walk through the doors, especially given the “cursed” journey the show had been on.
He added: “We had a tube strike on the opening night in London, we had four of our six actors coming down with Covid and having to be replaced during the run, we had legal letters from Paul Dacre demanding to see a copy of the script and we said no. It’s almost been a cursed show in some ways.
“Given this play was something the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times chose not to review, it’s had an extraordinary life. I hope Scotland will see what it is we are trying to do.”
Walker says the central aim of the play is to outline the importance of rules through what he describes as two “similar” women in May and Miller, the invisible but also ever-present Johnson, and the influence of Dacre, a character he said he couldn’t avoid including after IPSO described his paper as “offensive” for the way in which it portrayed Miller.
Although the play is centred on a court case, the story is set largely outside the courtroom in locations such as Miller’s family home, the offices of the Daily Mail and May’s offices, which is where Walker insists the true drama unfolded.
Walker said the show was originally due to run three years ago but is thankful its moment has come now in the aftermath of events that have centred around integrity, such as the partygate scandal.
He said: “I think if we had done it three years ago it wouldn’t have had the impact it has now because we’ve seen how everything has played out, and the play is fundamentally about the importance of rules and laws and what we have seen now with Johnson is that rules and laws are important.
“The play is a desperate cry for us to start to grow up in our politics, understand that laws do actually matter and we need to behave more reasonably towards each other.”
Bloody Difficult Women will be performed at the Assembly Rooms Ballroom from August 3-28.