Challenging authority: Shakespeare and radical theatre today

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Additional reporting by Shreya Parjan and Sandra Oseifri.

Challenging authority- Shakespeare and radical theatre today

“When you hold the mirror up to […] a totalitarian regime, it recognises it and attempts to stamp it out,” said Tony Howard, a Warwick University professor, discussing how Shakespeare can be used to slip controversial ideas into public spaces under the eyes of the censors.

Howard was part of a discussion held at London’s Globe theatre looking at how censorship is used against theatres and how playwrights can sometimes get around it.

The Shakespeare Under The Radar debate was held as part of a series marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the UK Theatres’ Act in 1968. Until then the Lord Chamberlain had the power to stop plays going on stage, or mark sections of the script to be taken out.

The panel also featured Index on Censorship magazine editor Rachael Jolley, Memet Ali Alabora, the exiled Turkish actor, and Zoe Lafferty, theatre director and producer. It was chaired by Samira Ahmed, the award-winning journalist and broadcaster.

“Turkey is one of the rarest countries where the persecution of artists has never ended,” Alabora told the audience in the Sam Wanamaker theatre, named after an actor who was blacklisted in the USA during McCarthyism. “When you’ve got a state of emergency the law gives you the right to ban material because it is unsafe,” added Alabora.

Alabora talked about his personal experience as director and actor in the 2012 play Mi Minör. The play was set in Pinima, a fictional country where the president decides anything. Amid the wave of demonstrations and civil unrest during the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey, the play was condemned by governmental and pro-governmental agencies, as an attempt to “rehearse” the protests. The threats against Alabora and his creative team forced them to leave the country because of fears for their safety.

Jolley said theatre can be a medium for social change, even in the face of censorship. “Theatre can do things in a way that is more radical or challenging because censors are more attuned to film and TV,” she said.  She talked about how memes are used in China to get around censorship: “Everybody can use that form of communication to talk about things that are not allowed.”

Lafferty’s work, which includes Queens of Syria, the story of female Syrian refugees, focuses on conflict areas such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon and Haiti. Her plays are dedicated to giving life to stories that might otherwise be inaccessible due to conflict, military occupation or censorship. “In the nine or ten years I’ve been involved with Palestine, the censorship, in lots of different ways, has been very brutal, including imprisonment and death,” she says.

However, it could be difficult to pinpoint exactly who does the censoring, she said. “It’s hard to get into all of the layers. There is the military occupation, the Palestinian authorities, the taboos of society, etc.” As Lafferty’s experience illustrates, there are also more insidious ways to silence: “There is a huge visa process which is a massive form of censorship.”

Despite the obstacles put in their way, Alabora and Lafferty have no intention of backing down from their theatrical work. Alabora directed Meltem Arikan’s play Enough is Enough, which highlights issues around incest, child abuse and violence against women. Meanwhile, Lafferty directed the play And Here I Am, which is based on the life story of Ahmed Tobasi, who went from being a member of Palestine’s Islamic Jihad to an actor.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1531488724804-26d39abd-64f9-5″ taxonomies=”8146, 8175″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Shakespeare under the radar

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”100419″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Celebrate daring artists who stage Shakespeare expressly to challenge political authority.

Shakespeare’s texts have been used time and again to bypass censorship and challenge authority. This panel discussion celebrates the daring of radical theatre makers across the world, who have performed Shakespeare and created work expressly for the purpose of holding ‘the mirror up to nature’ and challenging political landscapes.

There will also be the opportunity to put your questions to the panel on the night #JoinTheDebate

[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”100423″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]Director and actor in Mi Minor – This experimental theatre production accused by government officials and pro-government media of being the ‘rehearsal’ for the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. The resulting campaign forced him and the creative team to leave the country[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”100421″ img_size=”152×115″ add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]The University of Warwick academic is writer of three drama-documentaries on the history of multicultural Shakespearean acting in Britain and America. Howard’s Ira Aldridge documentary was given a reading in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in 2017[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”90098″ img_size=”152×114″ add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]Journalist and editor of the Index on Censorship Magazine – Edited Staging Shakespearean Dissent edition[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”100422″ img_size=”152×114″ add_caption=”yes”][vc_column_text]Theatre director and creative producer whose work focuses on uncovering stories from within situations that are hard to access due to conflict, occupation and censorship. She has worked in countries including Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, Lebanon, Haiti, Syria and the UK.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”80231″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]The chair of the panel is the award-winning journalist and broadcaster – Visiting professor of journalism at Kingston University, and presenter of Front Row on Radio 4 and Newswatch on BBC1[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

When: Thursday 5 July, 7.00pm
Where: Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9DT (Directions)
Tickets: £15 (£12 Members / Students) via Shakespeare’s Globe

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Staging Shakespearean dissent

Plays that protest, provoke and slip by the censors

Index on Censorship marked the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death in 2016 by creating a special issue of our award-winning magazine, looking at how his plays have been used around the world to sneak past censors or take on the authorities – often without them realising. Our special report explores how different countries use different plays to tackle difficult themes.

Browse the issue

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Reading list: Theatre and censorship

Index on Censorship magazine has compiled a reading list of articles from the magazine archives covering the censorship of theatre.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]