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Title: Shadow play : the censorship of the stage in twentieth century Britain
Author: Freshwater, Helen
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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Recent developments in performance theory and literary criticism indicate that we should attend to the absences and omissions that have shadowed the development of British theatre in the twentieth century. This thesis undertakes this project whilst challenging conventional readings of censorship. These readings often rest upon a reductive binarism, which proposes that the subject either experiences authoritarian repression or enjoys freedom of speech; that censors prohibit, silence and exclude, whilst artists struggle against institutionalised forces of repression. This symptomatic reading of the chimerical shadow play of censored performance dispenses with such certainties, to reveal the constitutive influence of censorship upon productions that did reach the stage, as well as the exclusion of many plays. This research demonstrates that the agents of censorship have indeed gagged and stifled British theatre during the twentieth century, but that their interventions have been realised through complex procedures of valorisation, legitimisation, and coercion. Seven case studies illustrate the variety of censorious practice that has controlled and conditioned the realisation of theatre in twentieth century Britain. These case studies resist any straightforward association of the censored with subversion, demonstrating that censored material is not necessarily politically challenging or unconventional. These case studies include investigations into the suppression of a series of sex education plays written by Marie Stopes in the 1920s; the Lord Chamberlain’s reaction to the importation of Grand Guignol; and the interpretative problems surrounding the dramatic inscription of lesbianism in the 1930s. They also contain analysis of Kenneth Tynan’s unsuccessful attempt to produce Rolf Hochhuth’s play, Soldiers, at the National Theatre during the 1960s; re-assessment of Mary Whitehouses’s prosecution of Howard Brenton’s The Romans in Britain; inspection of the impact of Section 28 upon performance during the late 1980s and early 1990s; and consideration of the increasing influence of business funding and corporate sponsorship.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available