CENSORED: Inside the Lord Chamberlain's Office


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Discover what would have got you into trouble (and clever ways you might have got around it)

50 years after the Lord Chamberlain’s Office stopped censoring British theatre, Kathryn Johnson, Steve Nicholson and Dan Rebellato shed light on the inner workings of the former ‘fun police’. They are joined by writer and director Vinay Patel, author of the smash-hit BBC drama Murdered by My Father, who writes a short scene especially for the occasion which is performed and censored on the night.

How did censorship used to work? How could playwrights play the system? And what was the cost of censorship for society? Drawing on a wealth of examples and anecdotes from the Lord Chamberlain's archive, held by the British Library, our panel of experts discover what would have got you into trouble (and clever ways you might have got around it...) 

Part of Banned Books Week, an international celebration of the freedom to read

Kathryn Johnson is an expert on theatrical censorship and former Curator of Theatrical Manuscripts at the British Library where she looked after the Lord Chamberlain’s Plays collection for many years.

Steve Nicholson is the Chair of 20th Century and Contemporary Theatre at the University of Sheffield. He is the author of the four volume series The Censorship of British Drama, as well as Modern British Playwriting: the 1960s, British Theatre and the Red Peril, and co-author of The Lord Chamberlain Regrets: A History of British Theatre Censorship. He is surely the only person to have read through every one of the many thousands of Lord Chamberlain’s correspondence files in the British Library.

Vinay Patel is a playwright and screenwriter from south east London. His television debut Murdered By My Father won the Royal Television Society award for Best Single Drama and was nominated for three BAFTAs. Vinay was named a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit for his work on the film. He has also contributed to the bestselling collection of essays, The Good Immigrant, and is currently developing work for the National Theatre, Paines Plough and the BBC.

Dan Rebellato is Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. His book 1956 and All That was a ground-breaking rethinking of the revolution in British theatre around Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court in the mid-1950s. He edits Terence Rattigan's selected plays for Nick Hern Books and is also a playwright whose work has been seen across the world. 

Banned Books Week was initiated by the American Library Association in 1982 in response to an increasing number of challenges in the US to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. For the third year running in the UK we are holding events and activities on the topics of Banned Books, Censorship and the Freedom to Read, made possible by the partnership between Index on Censorship, The British Library, English PEN, Free Word and Islington Library and Heritage Services, Media Diversified, The Publishers Association, the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Chief Librarians and Spread the Word in association with the ALA.


Director: Ian Nicholson

Writer: Vinay Patel

Performer: Dennis Herdman

Performer: Phoebe Sparrow

Ian Nicholson trained as a director at the National Theatre Studio, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and École Philippe Gaulier, and is currently Lab Associate Director at Nuffield Southampton Theatres. He was Associate Director for the National Theatre on we’re here because we’re here by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller and Rufus Norris. Recent directing credits include: Medusa (Nuffield Southampton Theatres); Othello (Unicorn Theatre, London); Arabian Nights (The Egg, Bath); The Ingenious Gentleman: Don Quixote (Jacksons Lane) which won both The Stage Award and a Vaults Festival Award.

Dennis Herdman has been an actor on stage, screen and radio for nearly 25 years. He has worked with companies such as the RSC, Shakespeare's Globe, The Royal Exchange, Told by an Idiot and Theatre O. Recent Theatre includes The Lounge at Soho Theatre, a UK tour of Around The World in 80 Days, and playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan at Regents Park this summer.

Phoebe Sparrow trained at Mountview. Credits include: Inside No 9 (BBC), Downton Abbey (ITV) and Baby (Turtle Canyon Comedy). Theatre credits include: The Dresser (Duke of York's & UK Tour), Fathers and Sons (Donmar Warehouse), City Stories (St James Theatre & Off-Broadway), The Journey (Pleasance Theatre) and Rope (Queen's Theatre Hornchurch).


Name: CENSORED: Inside the Lord Chamberlain's Office
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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