Lifting the Curtain: Theatre and Censorship


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With Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Richard Eyre, Gillian Slovo and Ella Hickson

50 years since the Lord Chamberlain was stripped of his power to censor plays, we examine playwriting in the UK and freedom of expression. 

Join director Richard Eyre and playwrights Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Gillian Slovo and Ella Hickson, to explore the development of British playwriting since the end of censorship in 1968. They consider the circumstances which led to the end of theatre censorship, whether the change in legislation heralded a change in artistic expression at the end of the 1960s, and notable productions which have caused controversy since. Has censorship in this country continued despite the end of legislation? In what other ways do writers today find what they want to say shaped and manipulated by others?

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti has written extensively for stage, screen and radio. Her play Behzti was sensationally closed after playing to packed houses at The Birmingham Rep in 2004: it then won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize the following year. Her work also includes Khandan, the feature film Everywhere and Nowhere, and her most recent play Elephant

Richard Eyre is a theatre, opera and film director and formerly Artistic Director of the National Theatre. Eyre’s theatre work includes productions for the National Theatre, West End and Broadway. His film work includes Iris and Notes on a Scandal, and he has directed and produced extensively for television. Eyre has been the recipient of numerous accolades including six Olivier awards and a knighthood.

Gillian Slovo is a novelist, memoirist and playwright. Her plays include Another World: Losing our Children to Islamic State, The Riots and Guantanamo: ‘Honour Bound to Defend Freedom’. Gillian Slovo was President of English PEN from 2010 – 2013.  

Ella Hickson is a playwright whose plays include Oil, Wendy and Peter Pan for the RSC and Boys. Her most recent play The Writer, at the Almeida Theatre, looks at how it can still be difficult for female artists to have their voices heard in a patriarchal 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.

In partnership with The Royal Society of Literature and part of Banned Books Week

Image: Richard Eyre photographed by John Haynes


Name: Lifting the Curtain: Theatre and Censorship
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546