Mark Akrill, writer of “Waiting for Hate Mail”, tells OffWestEnd about his play, in which real hate mail inspires a tragi-comic exploration of narrative, love, betrayal and loss

Waiting For Hate Mail

by Mark Akrill

Joe Brewer is at the terminal waiting to meet the son he never knew existed. But the flight is delayed. For hours. For days. And instead what arrives is hate mail. From the students he teaches, from the woman he loved, from a neo-fascist organisation.

Set in an airport and in the inside of Joe’s head, Waiting for Hate Mail charts a man’s descent into madness. It is a play about racism, memory, loss, fear and forgiveness. A funny and uplifting journey through the inside of all our heads.

The writing of Waiting for Hate Mail came about because I received a real death threat – purportedly from a fascist organisation. It arrived by second class mail to my home address. Later, I was sent a variety of hate mail online. The result was a show – part play, part poetry reading – which I performed at The Ambassadors Theatre in the West End in 2011. At the heart of it, that show was a reflection on love, betrayal and loss. And the questions I asked about forgiveness and disloyalty are embodied now in the story of Joe and Celeste.

★★★★★ Both hilarious and devastatingly sad, this piece possesses an unapologetic truth that will hit you right in the heart … evocative of the work of both Dario Fo and Franz Kafka.” – DLC Reviews

The show has become fully a play, but does retain some of the original – and, if you saw the first version, I hope you’ll find it every bit as funny and moving and uplifting. And that it will be that way for new audiences.

Recently, the comic, Rosie Jones, who has Cerebral Palsy, made a documentary about the hate mail and abuse she is subjected to. Watching it brought home to me the toxic culture that we are immersed in. Social media platforms are keen to stress how responsible they are, and that they make every effort to remove unacceptable material, but this is belied by the fact that the algorithms that big tech companies employ direct us to particular kinds of content – content designed to provoke emotional response, the more anxiety-inducing the better. Behind every Home Secretary, demonising migrants and minorities, is a sea of online anxiety and irrational hatred. That’s how the major tech companies strive to maintain their rate of profit.

Of course, there has always been bullying and hate speech. The difference is the industrial scale on which it now exists. Hate pays. Elon Musk’s recent re-admission of Katie Hopkins and the neo-fascist Tommy Robinson to X (formerly Twitter) is a case in point.

★★★★★ ”Mark treads in the footsteps of all those iconic artists before him who have transformed pain and ugliness into a remarkable piece of art. This is a devastating, tornado of a performance.” – Luke Stevenson

In an age of vitriol and judgement, Waiting for Hate Mail asks whether redemption and forgiveness are possible. The concept of redemption is, perhaps, difficult to accept in the modern world. Especially if it means that people who do abhorrent things get a second chance.

In Waiting for Hate Mail, Joe and Celeste are confronted by past events. Their youth, as vivid and immediate as when they lived it, haunts them even after decades.

REVIEWS OF AKRILL’S OTHER WORK

“Mark Akrill has written and directed a fabulous play which is both voyeuristic and intelligent.” – Theatreworld

“Performance and writing warrant comparison with Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads.” – Rogues and Vagabonds

This wonderfully intriguing and intelligent show. Worth every penny with its excellent ensemble acting, superb period costumes, precision choreography, and elegant design by Judith Pollard.” – Camden New Journal

And if you want to know what was in the death threat I received and what happened about it… you’ll just have to come and join us at Seven Dials Playhouse in January. We look forward to seeing you there

Waiting for Hate Mail
by Mark Akrill

Seven Dials Playhouse
05 January – 20 January 2024
All shows at 7:30pm (No performances on Sundays)
£22.00 & £18.00 Concessions (including Booking Fee)
https://sevendialsplayhouse.ticketsolve.com/ticketbooth/shows/1173649991

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