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Neil LaBute interview: 'I don't want to say all Mormons are ready to kill babies'

As 'Bash: Latterday Plays' returns to the West End, playwright and filmmaker Neil LaBute looks back on his experience of leaving the Mormon church

So you were excommunicated from the Church of the Latter-day Saints because of this play?
‘I wasn’t excommunicated, but “disfellowshipped” [it’s one less bad]. I don’t know if the church read the play, or had just seen review headlines saying things like “Murderous Mormons”.’

Was being disfellowshipped a rough experience?
‘It’s not a great thing to go through. But it made sense: it led to me realising that I wasn’t able to balance being a member of the church with writing what I wanted to write. They were saying: “We think members of the church shouldn’t see R-rated movies; you’re making R-rated movies.”’

This version of ‘Bash’ is actually a re-write with the Mormon stuff toned down – why is that?
‘Well, one: I really didn’t want the play to do what they were accusing the play of doing, which is saying that all Mormons are ready to kill babies at a moment’s notice. And, two: I didn’t want the audience to feel they were removed from it: “I’m not a Mormon, this doesn’t speak to me.” I only used the Mormon template because I was aware of the specifics of the religion.’

It’s transferring to Trafalgar Studios from the Old Red Lion, a classic pub theatre – are you a fan of the London fringe?
‘I am: it’s a great way of stumbling on work you might not know, or actually seeing your own work. I saw a production of “Bash” in a pub a few years back and I think somebody from the production noticed I was there. A definite, er, ripple went through the actors.’

When can London expect some new LaBute?
‘A couple of new plays should be coming to you soon, actually. And me and [his regular British director] Michael Attenborough were hoping to bring back my “Reasons to Be Pretty” in rep with one called “Reasons to Be Happy”. We haven’t got dates that work yet, though ironically we wanted to bring them to Trafalgar Studios, where this production has got in.Is that ironic? I feel like Alanis Morissette because I don’t know if I’m using that word correctly.’

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