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Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

Theatre Royal Haymarket’s Uncensored marks 50 years since the abolition of state censorship in the UK with performances of canonical texts and a provocative panel discussion of the role that censorship takes in society today.

Uncensored brings together short vignettes from the world’s first ‘censored’ play, Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, satirical works, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Crimson Island and Moliere’s Tartuffe, Omar El-Khairy’s and Nadia Latif’s provocative immersive experience, Homegrown, and Kenneth Tynan’s rousing ridicule of state censorship, The Royal Smut Hound. These absurd portraits of censorship’s failure to contain free expression meet Mae West’s unapologetic portrayal of gay men, The Drag, Cole Porter’s compelling song, Love for Sale, and the Nadezhda Mandelstam’s wrenching memoir of resistance. In contrast and in conversation, these sketches demand a renewed commitment to understanding the place of art and the power of the written word in the modern world.

This performance of censored works represents the diversity of artistic achievement we claim as a birth right today and sets the frame for the searing exploration of censorship which follows the presentation of these eight short extracts. At times absurd, at others sobering, the excerpts masterfully presented in this showcase of banned literature both reinvigorate these familiar texts and challenge us to examine the ways in which contemporary art still faces censure.

The moving and engaging texts and plays chosen to mark this anniversary all offer insight into the development of censorship and its influence on the shape of our society through time. Between each piece unembodied voices echo the damning verdict of the censors, judging the texts to be immoral, impious or subversive. In its wide-ranging discussion, the panel drew out an evolution of censorship from the imposition of political prudence by a state official and the reinforcement of certain dominant social mores, to a more pernicious and pervasive censorious judgement by the public and the economic pressures which inhibit the production of art today.

Set upon the stage which will soon present bold new productions of Grossman’s Life and Fate and Moliere’s Tartuffe, bare except for grey, disintegrating furniture, Uncensored is a fitting reflection on how far our understanding of censorship has come, and a reminder yet of how far we have to go.

  • Theatre and discussion
  • Concept: Sarah Sigal at JW3
  • Directed by: Max Gill
  • Produced by: Kitty Wordsworth
  • Panel: Jodie Ginsburg, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Michael Billington, Simon Callow, Lev Dodin, Dina Dodina and Christopher Hampton
  • Theatre Royal Haymarket, London
  • 10 May 2018

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Hannah Connell is an MA student of Russian and East European Literature at UCL. She is passionate about poetry, art and architecture. Her background in modern languages in fuelled by her interest in foreign literature and drama, an interest in culture and theatre that springs from her introduction to great English playwrights at school. On the side she pursues her interest in design through painting and pottery-making.

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