Rodney James has my every sympathy [Letters, December 25]. Obscene language has become de rigueur in the modern musical. The writers of ‘Billy Elliott’, ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ have not felt able to avoid its inclusion. The same is true of ‘Jersey Boys’, of whose music I was an avid fan and would have been glad to hear it reinterpreted. But friends who had seen the London show, including a family with young children, like Mr James’, advised me how it was riddled with the sort of language that was once confined to the barrack room and building site. In so many areas of life one cannot escape it. I was determined not to pay good money for the dubious benefit of hearing it on the stage.
The irony is we have daily proof that it is not necessary. Four nights a week, for example, one sees characters in ‘EastEnders’ who might well deploy a stream of such invective. Transmission time forbids them to do so and their writers manage to find other ways and language of conveying skilfully the darker side of character. By contrast a peak of sorts was reached over Christmas with a dramatisation of one of the Queen of Crime’s most famous works. Given the screenplay writer’s propensity for gore, sexual explicitness and foul language, it could well have been Roman Polanski’s ‘And Then There Were None’. Or Quentin Tarantino’s. It most certainly was not Agatha Christie’s.
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