Tuesday, 27 November 2007
11 - Beyond the Fringe
“Bollard” by Peter Cook, in “Beyond the Fringe”, 1961
Cameraman: Alan Bennett
If I were slightly more technically adept I would splice these two into one clip. Unfortunately I’m not. So you’ll have to start at 7:23 on the first clip and continue on the second clip until 00:47
For several hundred years, all material performed on the British stage had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain, who could then vet and censor as he felt necessary. Throughout the 1950s, American plays by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, and even such a vague, self-contradictory piece like “Tea and Sympathy”, were banned from the British Theatre for their mild homosexual content. The upshot of this, is that any representations of gay people did not appear on the popular stage.
The scripts for the sketches in “Beyond the Fringe” therefore all had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain. The only sketch which was censored was this one, “Bollard”.
The characters were not allowed to call each other, “love”. And even more bizarrely, the stage directions themselves had to be amended at the Lord Chamberlain’s instruction. “Enter two outrageous old queens” had to be changed to “Enter two aesthetic young men”.
Note the use of that THAT hand gesture just before the sketch cuts to black.
“Beyond the Fringe” set the trend for smart, adult-oriented humour. Therefore, most of the cartoons and sketches I can find from this period come from the satire-oriented venues: TV sketch shows like “That Was The Week That Was”, and “Private Eye” magazine. Previously, one couldn't even hint at homosexuals in serious drama. Now, the mention of homosexuality was a part of the new sophisticated comedy, one of the freedoms afforded by a new more liberal contemporary society.
Although, there wasn't the freedom to be homosexual yourself.