“The analogy between the Protestant fundamentalism and Muslim fundamentalism is very close. It is a religion of The Book, it is hostility to music, it is hostility to images in worship, it is beards, it is a belief that the church and the state should be the same thing. There are lots and lots of comparisons and, most of all, the belief in the truth of The Book, which make this a very relevant and contemporary story.
“There is some idea that the King James Bible has an authority, that the translators were touched in a unique way and that it is closer to the word of God.
“And yet some of it is not as good. In some cases Tyndale is better. You do realise it is a human construction. They were very diligent, there is no doubt of their scholarship and the evidence that we have got, which is very limited, of the translation process is that they were very hard-working and they went back to things again and again and again. There were two wholesale revision processes of the whole thing and they were discussing it in minute detail.
“They certainly didn’t set out to produce a literary masterpiece and it didn’t sell very well when it came out but in places they have the best versions of verses. They got lots of things right. The King James is probably best most of the time. It has a combination of majesty and simplicity.
“It is a great picker, of looking at the earlier versions and picking the best bits. It is a great editor.
“Also a lot of the earlier versions, such as the Tyndale Bible, were designed to be read in silence but the King James Bible was designed to be read aloud. And that is how they did the translation, they read it out verse by verse. And that is why it has become the version of choice.
“I have Christian friends who berate me and other non-believers who are affectionate towards the King James Bible on the grounds that it is inaccurate and because it is obscure. If you are reading it as a Christian the meaning is much more important than the music.”
David has a long connection with the RSC with former collaborations including Days of Destiny, The Jail Diary of Albie Sachs, Maydays, Pentecost and the Prisoner’s Dilemma, as well as his award-winning adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.
But his connection to the theatre goes back even further as his aunt, Nancy Burman, who also managed Birmingham Repertory Theatre, was production manager at the RSC under Sir Barry Jackson.
“I have seen Shakespeare in Stratford from the age of 11 when I saw Peggy Ashcroft playing Rosalind in As You Like It,” he recalls.
“It has been a very important part of my life. I have been going for years and years throughout my life and have been involved with it since Days of Destiny in 1976 – so 35 years. It is very nice to be back especially with the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre.”
* Written on the Heart is on at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, from October 27-March 10.