The Censorship of British Drama, 1960-1968
Presented by Dr Steve Nicholson
Between the passing of the Theatres Act in 1737 and its abolition in 1968, every new play had to be officially licensed by the Lord Chamberlain before it could be staged in public. He could ban them entirely and without explanation, or demand the removal of scenes, speeches or characters. This talk focuses on the period between 1960-1968 when the Lord Chamberlain came into direct conflict with theatre-makers ready to sweep away old conventions and challenge the establishment. For the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, Samuel Beckett was ‘a conceited ass’, and the author of Look Back in Anger ‘naughty little smart-alec small boy John Osborne scribbling words on lavatory walls’. But this talk – which is based on comprehensive reading of the Lord Chamberlain’s archives – will also go beyond the well-known clashes with the Royal Court, the RSC and Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, to try and find out what it must have been like for other groups and individuals – amateur as well as professional – who became caught up in the battle.
Steve Nicholson is the Chair of 20th Century and Contemporary Theatre at the University of Sheffield. He has written extensively about theatre censorship under the Lord Chamberlain, and is the author of a four volume history entitled The Censorship of British Drama, 1900-1968. The final volume of this study recently won the STR Book Prize for the best book in British Theatre published in 2015.