Hannah Silva, 29 January 2013

Censorship & Free Speech, What can’t/shouldn’t we do in theatre?

Productions/books mentioned:

DV8 ‘Let’s talk about this’

Richard Bean ‘English people are very nice’ at NT

Batsheva, Israeli dance company

Nick Cohen – You can’t read this book

Who was there: Hannah Silva, Mark, Maria Thomas, Nir Paldi, and two more?

Please add things to this that I’ve missed…


Mark: In the theatre we should say exactly what we want – the only constraint within

the industry is getting others involved, especially when this might mean they are

putting their lives at risk.

Freedom of speech is absolute.

Should you be allowed to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre? Not if it’s putting others at

risk. Freedom of speech must not cause crime…but if it does it is the crime that should

be punished not the speech.

We agreed that we do not have absolute freedom of speech in this country.

- Because this is a country where people are being arrested on the basis of tweets, or

wearing t-shirts, or insulting a policeman’s horse.

It’s the Public Order Act section five that allows arrests to be made on the basis of

offence caused rather than crimes committed. (this act was recently amended and

word ‘insulting’ dropped…)

Perhaps this is the result/linked to laws against discrimination, where ‘it was a joke’ is

not a defence where the object is offended. It’s where this is applied outside of

discrimination cases but to general idiotic/stupid comments/bad jokes/bad

taste/retweets that lack of free speech is apparent….how do we discriminate between

protecting individuals from discrimination and allowing free speech?

Within our society…twitter…there is no room for jokes…or bad taste or retweets….

Theatre takes ideas and gives it physical form – making it a target. Mark received

death threats when working on a play that criticised Franko.

Richard Bean’s play ‘English people are very nice’ was a satire on at the National

Theatre. It criticised/satirised many factions of English society. The Bangladeshi

community protested and tried to stop the play running.

They had a right to protest. The National had a right to keep the play on.

When Israeli dance company Batsheva performed in the UK artists protested by

buying and burning tickets outside the theatre.

Nir – hidden in this attempt of the UK theatre makers to censor/prevent Israeli artists

from making their work is ignorance of the issues, and issues being seen as black and

white. It’s not the artists that should be punished - artists are the last examples of left

wing thinking in Israel. Can we blame them for accepting support to make their work?

It is the government using art as an Israeli brand that should protested against – not

artists against artists.

There was hatred emanating from these UK artists, – if they feel like this about Israeli

artists ‘will my play be censored because I’m from Israel?’

Self-censorship: There’s no point making work that won’t get put on – gate keepers

also enforce self censorship.

However – freedom of speech means the UK artists had the right to protest and this

right should not be taken away. It’s up to artists to reveal the grey areas.

Edinburgh fringe is an example of free speech and lack of censorship…anyone can

put work on and gate keeping is minimal, it’s a capitalist model…the freedom in this

means we are lucky to have this festival…but there is a theatre clique ‘against’ the

large venues…they say ‘you shouldn’t perform there you should rebel – don’t buy into

bad treatment’. The opposite opinion is difficult to express.

It is already a risk to take a production about the Palestine-Israeli conflict to Edinburgh

without also taking on a capitalist system that has worked for the theatre company.

The lack of gatekeepers in Edinburgh Fringe also means lack of censorship. In effect

by theatres selecting certain work and excluding other work they are censoring what is

seen on stages…which also applies to who we see on stage, whose stories are being

told etc.

Conclusion: we don’t have freedom of speech, what are we going to do about it?

Say/write/perform one offensive/potential illegal act before breakfast each day.

What is that act? What is offensive?

Religion….particularly criticising Islam.

Sex…when mixed up with religion/politics…

transgressive speaking….speaking out about those in power? …

Male nudity (interesting link to 3K which had more male than female nudity)


Hannah note:

I’m going to continue thinking about this on my blog. I’ll post a link here when it’s up.


censorship, DV8, free speech, Batsheva, edinburgh fringe, Edinburgh Fringe