International Arts Partnership

Nude in wheelbarrow


Between 1737 and 1968, all theatre intended for a public performance was submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for approval. Plays were either licenced, “blue pencilled” for elements to be removed or refused in their entirety. Overall, some 600 plays were denied a licence of which no fewer than 60 were refused in the period between the end of the second world war and 1968. Some of those censored plays – for example, Edward Bond’s “Saved” – are now key A level texts.

I can categorically say that the Lord Chamberlain would not allow a nude woman to be wheeled across the stage in a wheelbarrow.

— Lord Chamberlain’s office, 1963

This project focuses on the remembered experience of that censorship. In the current cultural climate, the idea that the arts, and theatre in particular, stands to challenge the political establishment or public tastes, sensibilities or assumptions is taken for granted. We pride ourselves on living in an environment where art which challenges convention or explores difficult subjects is encouraged. 

Critically, it will not be long before first hand memory of that censorship will be lost.