The Playgoer: The Logic of Censorship

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Monday, November 22, 2010

The Logic of Censorship

John Heilpern reminds us what life in the British theatre was like under the censorious rule of the Lord Chamberlain's Office:

The Gilbert and Sullivan madhouse of the Lord Chamberlain's office within St. James's Palace was mostly comprised of lordly aristocrats and showbiz-inclined army colonels who'd been censoring any play that was remotely sexual since the Theatres Act of 1737. Homosexuality frightened the horses most. Thus, the lordly Lord Chamberlain could rule that in Tennessee Williams's Suddenly Last Summer, the cannibalism was OK, but not the implication that the cannibalized man could be gay.
And this was the law of the land until the 1960s!

All this by way of profiling the rediscovered early John Osborne play, Personal Enemy, which also fell victim to this regime.

Good book on the history of the Lord Chamberlain's office, and the damage it did, here.

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