"He's quite pessimistic, isn't he? You could get a bit depressed listening to his thoughts about his childhood and the state of theatre and political writing."

"Oh my God! That was amazing! He's so inspiring, so committed."

"There were lots of people here; I was quite surprised. It just goes to show people crave intelligent conversation and are looking for answers to big questions ... "

Three reactions after English playwright Sir David Hare finished his one hour talk ostensibly about his memoir The Blue Touch Paper (it's a reference to the instructions on lighting British fireworks). It goes to show, as Hare says, the audience - the way it reacts and responds and its current concerns - shapes theatre.


Hare has been a controversial figure in English theatre. He writes biting political and often satirical plays with characters dealing with the impact of decisions made by the powers that be. Applause broke out when he declared teachers, police, ambulance officers, doctor and nurses and social workers are the world's real heroes because they mop up the results of this policymaking.

Hare was characteristically self-deprecating. He candidly talked about self-hatred; living his life in a constant state of bewilderment and guilt. His honesty endeared him to the audience and so did a comment about people telling him New Zealand was like Britain in the 1950s: "But it's nothing like it - you can get a decent cup of coffee and a good meal and the people are pleasant! Pleasant!"

But Hare has also been knighted and a number of his plays have been produced at the National Theatre, which started life as a radical idea championed by the left, and then changed its mind and decided the theatre would become too establishment. He chose to stick with it.

Again it proves what Hare recognises so well: people, and situations, are complex, and while you can react to this, perhaps you shouldn't judge. I'm left thinking it's a great shame that we're perhaps not as interested in the kind of political theatre - made personal - that Hare writes.