The title of a new musical – The Assassination of Katie Hopkins – is designed to elicited a reaction. And it has succeeded , not least from the woman herself. But its inventors say the show is not what she – or the audience – might expect.
“We wish Katie Hopkins nothing but a long and healthy life.”
Chris Bush, the writer of The Assassination of Katie Hopkins, is spelling out the facts of the case that her show is neither about how brilliant it would be if the right-wing controversialist was bumped off , nor is it fostering anyone to help her fulfill that fate.
Bush will make this clear several more times during our interview, just to get the message across.
Her show does begin with news reports about Hopkins’ imagined killing.
And Bush admits her own politics are “to the left” – but insists the musical is “not leftish wish fulfilment”.
Instead, the writer says, after the opening, her musical goes on to use the bitter fallout from that fictional event to examine burning issues in society, like free speech and the increasing polarisation of public debate.
“I sort of hope she comes to see it, ” director James Grieve says. “Because it won’t be what she thinks it is, it won’t be what she expects it to be, and I’m genuinely fascinated about what she’d think about it.”
Is she invited? “I hereby invite her.”
If Hopkins does join the audience at Theatr Clwyd in Mold , north Wales, she’ll ensure a story that follows the characters of two young women in the aftermath of her “assassination”.
One is Kayleigh, a charity employee who comes around to the view that Hopkins was misunderstood and underestimated, and joins the Justice For Katie campaign.
The other, Shayma, is a trainee human rights lawyer who is seeking justice for a dozen fruit pickers who died in a fire on the same day, but whose stories get eclipsed by Hopkins’ death.
“The main things we’re looking at are free speech and how news spreads and is discussed online, ” composer Matt Winkworth says.
Hopkins has carved out a place as a vocal outrager of the British mainstream, regularly courting disagreement with her views on immigration, religion, race and crime.
She’s no stranger to death threats, and in a court case last October, a woman who was convicted of terrorist offences said she fantasised about Hopkins’ beheading.
Hopkins herself has described the play’s title as “an invitation”, and asked why it was her name in the title and not “a woman of colour or a Muslim man”. She declined an interview request to speak about the musical.
“It perfectly isn’t an invitation, ” Bush says. “However much we might disagree, we wish no ill will to her.
“Unless you think Death of a Salesman is encouraging people to go and kill salesmen, then a prove called The Assassination of Katie Hopkins is in no way an invitation or an incitement.”
Women ‘judged more harshly’
Explaining the decision to single her out, the writer says: “It’s important that this show is focused around a woman, because controversial, outspoken girls are still judged far more harshly, and held to much different standards in the public eye than men are.
“That’s something that’s worth digging into and exploring.
“It needs to be a divisive figure in terms of how it challenges how we have respect for the dead and how we value life. The Assassination of David Attenborough would be a very different show.”
Bush goes on: “The reason why we wanted a figure from the right rather than the left is actually because we wanted to challenge, among other things, a certain type of leftist hypocrisy which runs, ‘I abhor violence against anyone, but would make an exception for Katie Hopkins.’ And we’re calling that out.”
So, those audience members who run because they actually quite like the audio of the act in the title will have their prejudices challenged, she says.