Is this a haddock I see before me?Talkback: you speak, we listen

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Worried that, in the wake of the Behzti affair - the closure of a controversial play by Birmingham Rep following protests fromSikhs - some minority groups could be upset by your forthcoming Shakespeare school play? Thanks to a new DfES initiative, "Making Shakespeare Inclusive", a number of the plays are now felt to be appropriate for performance in schools, with changes as follows: Macbeth: cut the Scottish references (they may give offence to Scots) and the witches (covens are known to be unhappy). A community meeting, rather than killing, should establish who takes over as King. Macduff's children should be taken into care, not murdered.

Hamlet: must be nicer to his mum (there have been complaints from women's groups) and see more of his stepdad (protests feared from Fathers for Justice).

Love's Labour's Lost: might be confused with the Blunkett affair. Do Middleton's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore instead.

King Lear: presents a dismal impression of royalty, women, old age, homelessness, the family, life in general and having your eyes poked out.

But at least they're English. Okay if lots of your parents are Guardian readers.

Othello: the black guy has to be seen in a positive light and as a role model, so no wife-beating or making rude comments about Turks; they're on our side now. Perhaps he could be a footballer. Better cut the scenes on Cyprus; rather sensitive at the moment. Make it the Isle of Wight.

Titus Andronicus: chopping off hands, cannibalism and mass murder could offend extreme fundamentalist groups, who might seek revenge via terrorist attacks on your bike sheds. Not to be set in Birmingham.

Merchant of Venice: take out the Jewish bits (Shylock could be a Scot) and have him demand a pound of haddock instead of flesh, which can offend vegetarians.

Antony and Cleopatra: too political. The title could start rumours at Westminster. And the Saudis aren't happy with plays set in the Middle East.

Relocate to Brussels, and have it revolve round Egyptian EU membership talks and trade quotas.

Romeo and Juliet: a lot of shouting, squabbling and mob violence, so make it clear they are Italians. No knives, feuding or killing, and certainly no drugs. Have the families go for counselling to sort everything out.

Henry V: no foreign invasion, even if it is only France. Focus on trying to win the Eurovision Song Contest instead.

A Midsummer Night's Dream: there should be no objections to the arranged marriages. Leave in any hunting scenes for the moment.

New economy editions of these plays will be available shortly, thanks to public-private funding (though there could be a slight delay).

John Bishop is a former English teacher

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