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Diary: Censored! Stage, Screen, Society at 50...

Until 29th January 2019. London's Victoria and Albert Museum marks 50 years since the Theatres Act came into force, abolishing state censorship of the British stage


Link Here 15th October 2018
Until 1968 plays that had the potential to create immoral or anti-government feelings were banned by the Lord Chamberlain's office or ordered to be edited.

The V&A exhibition includes original manuscripts with notes on what needs to be changed and letters from Lord Chamberlain explaining why the edits are required.

In the exhibition there are several pieces including a manuscript about the play Saved by Edward Bond. The play tells the story of a group of young people living in poverty and includes a scene in which a baby is stoned to death.

When the Royal Court Theatre submitted the play to the censor, over 50 amendments were requested. Bond refused to cut two key scenes, stating 'it was either the censor or me -- and it was going to be the censor'. As a result, the play was banned.

Before the act was passed, playwrights got around the law by staging banned plays in members clubs which meant they could not be persecuted since it was private venue. The continued success of this strategy and the reluctance to prosecute made a mockery of the Lord Chamberlain's powers and reflected the increasingly relaxed attitudes of the public towards 'shocking' material.

The first night after the Act was introduced, the rock musical Hair opened on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End. It featured drugs, anti-war messages and brief nudity, ushering in a new age of British theatre.

The exhibition runs until 29th January 2019.

 

 

Miserable Middlesbrough...

Council bans Roy Chubby Brown from performing at the town hall


Link Here 29th September 2018

The comedian Roy Chubby Brown has been banned from performing at Sheffield Town Hall

The comic believes he has been stopped from appearing at the new look venue because his act is too saucy. He says he is angry and gutted over the move insisting his publicity material makes the sort of content clear and anyone easily offended can simply stay away.

Middlesbrough Council claimed the decision was simply based on the fact the programme for the recently relaunched theatre was full.

Teesside Live readers have reacted in force to the news - and almost every one backing the local lad. Posting on Teesside Live 14 said:

Most people are able to make up their own minds about whether they want to see Chubby Brown or not. No need for venues to make that decision for them.  Maybe we should all boycott the town hall!

 

 

A Stitch in Time...

Malta's Unifaun Theatre stages the play Stitching, a decade after it was banned, which set in motion a rewrite of the country's censorship laws


Link Here 19th September 2018
Full story: Stage Censorship in Malta...Maltese censors ban stage play Stitching, then get disbanded
The play Stitching , has opened at the Unifaun Theatre in Malta for a two week run. But Stitching is not your average piece of theatre; it's taken 10 years, international coverage, and even a literal EU court case to get this show up and running.

Ten years ago, in October 2008, local theatre producer Adrian Buckle sent an email to playwright Anthony Nielson, asking for permission to produce his play Stitching in Malta. Nielson duly granted Unifaun the rights to a performance of his play. Buckle booked a slot at a local theatre, hires the cast and informs the Board for Film and Stage Classification in order expecting to be issued an age-rating certificate for the piece. However, instead of receiving an age certification, Buckle received a certificate that simply stated the play had been Banned and disallowed, with no explanation or reason provided. Thus begins a ten-year-long battle that finally brings us to this year's production.

However, the team at Unifaun would not stand for this lack of explanation; they chased for an answer, and in January 2009 the police commissioner delivered a letter that detailed the reasons:

  1. Blasphemy against the State Religion
  2. Obscene contempt for the victims of Auschwitz
  3. An encyclopaedic review of dangerous sexual perversions leading to sexual servitude
  4. Abby's eulogy to the child murderers Fred and Rosemary West
  5. Reference to the abduction, sexual assault and murder of children

In conclusion, the play is a sinister tapestry of violence and perversion where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. The Board feels that in this case the envelope has been pushed beyond the limits of public decency.

The censorship became major news in Malta and it was decided by the politicians at the time that the established censorship system was no longer compatible with EU human rights requirements, notably Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights:

Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of such a society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man [...] it is applicable not only to 'information' or 'ideas' that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.

The country's censorship laws were rewritten without calling on the services of stage censors. Film censorship was also reformed with new rules that are based on the UK's, which is at least significantly more free than before.

So now the play has opened, was it really that bad? lovinmalta.com answers:

Yes, the play is crude. Yes, they swear a lot. Yes, they talk about child murderers. Yes, they use a dildo on stage. Yes, they describe sexual acts very explicitly. Yes, it probably made people very uncomfortable. That is why performances are given an age certification. That is not reason to censor and an artist.

Three performances have passed so far and the world has not ended. Nobody has walked out of the theatre mid-performance in a fit of rage.

 

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