David Hare turns his attention to the new political order

The playwright’s latest project; Tom Hiddleston picks theatre over TV; and the PM’s wife is silent on the men in her family

He’s an opportunistic and populist Tory MP, who rises inexorably through his party. Remind you of somebody? I hear that David Hare is creating a new four-part drama series for BBC One, which is not – well, at least, not directly – about Boris Johnson, even if some of the characteristics are familiar. Interesting that Hare will have a Conservative at the centre of this series. The politicians in his dramas until now have been Labour, kicking off with 1993’s The Absence of War at the National, about a party leader who fails to win power, loosely based on Neil Kinnock in the 1992 election.

Last year Hare portrayed a male Labour MP - played by John Simm - in his BBC Two series Collateral, and then, in his play I’m Not Running, a female one (Siân Brooke), who stood for the leadership.

Hare is the most political of writers. Think of Stuff Happens, his response to the Iraq war, or The Permanent Way, which looked back to the start of railway privatisation in 1991. Incidentally, that is being revived in London at the Vaults, the disused tunnels beneath Waterloo station. How appropriate!

Now in his early 70s, Hare seems to be more prolific than ever. Yet, for me, his best plays are not the ones with grandstanding themes, but those on a smaller scale, such as Skylight, The Judas Kiss, South Downs and The Moderate Soprano.

Tom Hiddleston as Jonathan Pine in the 2016 hit The Night Manager.
Tom Hiddleston in the 2016 hit The Night Manager. Photograph: Des Willie/AMC

What has happened to the follow-up series of BBC One’s 2016 hit The Night Manager? I understand shooting was scheduled for this summer but has been called off. It means that Tom Hiddleston, who played the hotel manager turned spy, is free to go to Broadway with Jamie Lloyd’s revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal (based on the playwright’s affair with Joan Bakewell), which was a huge success in the West End earlier this year. The New York version begins next month and runs into December. So any Night Manager sequel can now only be shot next year.

Also facing delays is the second McMafia, the BBC One hit from early 2018. The problem is how to move the series on, although my difficulty was more with the lead actor, James Norton, who appeared to have had a charisma bypass to play the British son of a Russian mafia boss.

Why is the TV industry so obsessed with sequels? Sometimes it’s better to quit while you’re ahead.

Charles Wheeler.
Charles Wheeler. Photograph: BBC

Finally, back to Boris Johnson. Out in September is an interesting book from Marina Wheeler, who, you might recall, is still officially Mrs Boris Johnson. Advance information about The Lost Homestead from Hodder & Stoughton does not, however, mention the author’s husband. Mind you, the book is primarily a biography of Marina’s mother, Dip Singh, a Sikh forced by the 1947 partition to leave the Punjab. The blurb then mentions how Dip, who is still alive, “married Marina’s father before going with him to Berlin and Washington”. That unnamed father just happened to be Charles Wheeler, who I reckon to have been the BBC’s greatest foreign correspondent, and who was married to Dip until his death in 2008. A decidedly odd omission.


Richard Brooks

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