A front line analysis of controversy and censorship in contemporary British theatre.

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis offers a snapshot of contemporary British theatre censorship between 2015 and 2017. Drawing on Zygmunt Bauman's theories about liquid modernity, I delineate a range of scholarly discourses on censorship. I propose a more precise term, ‘liquid censorship’, which acknowledges the various, shape-shifting forms that censorship can take as well as the invisible power that drives decisions to regulate or otherwise inhibit freedom of artistic expression. The research brings together a range of sources from theatre scholarship and qualitative interviews to freedom of information requests, industry reports and press reviews or reports. This is supplemented by insights gleaned from a sample of repertoire data captured between 2016 and 2017 from 34 theatres across the 12 key regions of the UK. I investigate the significance of shifts in society and describe how these influence localised acts of liquid censorship. The spotlight is placed on controversial productions that incorporate the figure of the child in dangerous circumstances, either as performers, narrative focus, or both. My case studies include the National Youth Theatre's Homegrown which was censored in 2015, Milo Rau's Five Easy Pieces for Campo theatre in Ghent which toured to the Unicorn Theatre in 2018 having been cancelled in Manchester the previous year, and Out of Joint’s revival of Andrea Dunbar’s Rita Sue and Bob Too, which was first cancelled and then reinstated at the Royal Court Theatre in 2017. Exploring the relationship between theatre spaces, society and audiences, my thesis uncovers the less visible pressures that influence programming decisions in Britain, such as social media, politics and funding, artistic leadership, security and the preservation of public order, clarifying how the processes of liquid censorship operate in this context.
    Date of Award10 Aug 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Winchester
    SupervisorStevie Simkin (Supervisor), Helen Grime (Supervisor) & Marilena Zaroulia (Supervisor)


    • censorship
    • controversy
    • contemporary theatre
    • liquid modernity
    • social media

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