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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004, 15:58 GMT
Writer's friend defends cancelled play
Police outside Birmingham REP
Police had to deal with violence outside the Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Radio and television producer Anne Edyvean is a personal friend of writer Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, whose play Behzti has been cancelled at the Birmingham repertory theatre after violent protests.

Ms Edyvean gave Ms Bhatti her first commission on the multi-cultural radio soap Westway.

She was among the first audiences to witness the play Behzti at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre before it was cancelled due to violent protests.

The main focus of the protest was against a scene in which a woman was sexually abused inside a Gurdwara - a Sikh temple.

"Personally, I thought the play was strong stuff. It starts as a sort of dark comedy and then the second half turns a lot darker," said Ms Edyvean.

"It is very thoughtful and passionate but not gratuitous.

"It shows a man in society promoting himself as good, but he is not a good man. It is not an attack on Sikhism or a Gurdwara, more an attack on hypocrisy.

"I can understand why some people were upset but Gurpreet wrote it from a Sikh perspective and is deeply respectful of Sikhism, it was never her intention to be sensationalist."

"I think part of the problem is a question of lack of representation in theatre. If there had been five plays set in a Gurdwara and only one dealt with sexual violence then it may have been more accepted."

Gurpreet is undoubtedly upset by all this - she had been upset by peaceful protests but felt as a writer she wanted to stick to her guns and write
Anne Edyvean

Ms Edyvean was a producer on the black TV drama Babyfather, which was largely praised for its ground-breaking treatment of ethnic minorities in a sympathetic light.

"There it was a case of representational balance because there were so many strong and good black characters that it did not matter if there was one bad one," she said.

"Gurpreet is undoubtedly upset by all this. She had been upset by peaceful protests but felt as a writer she wanted to stick to her guns and write.

"She did not want to give it up, she has a right to her views as do the elders in the Sikh community.

BBC drama Babyfather was seen as presenting the black community in a positive light
"She was particularly upset by the violence."

Distinctive voice

There is now a concern that ethnic arts will suffer because of a fear of reprisals if a sensitive subject is touched on.

Ms Edyvean added: "It makes me worry that people will see violent protests can successfully take off a play.

I think that people are already scared about dealing with issues of colour, race and religion but it is a question of freedom of expression and this will have to be dealt with."

"Speaking as someone involved in the artistic world, Gurpreet has a very distinctive voice and she is a very talented writer and it would be an incredible shame if that voice was lost."

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