Historian Looks at Censorship of Controversial Drama

A University of Worcester historian will interrogate the role of censorship and its consequences in a talk taking place at The Hive next month.

Professor of Early Modern History, Darren Oldridge, will be speaking about the controversial TV play Brimstone and Treacle, written by Dennis Potter in the 1970s, followed by a screening of the drama, on May 8 from 7pm-9pm.

The dark subject matter of the play, which centres on the character of the Devil disguised as a young man, proved so controversial at the time that it was pulled from broadcast.

“Potter’s work remains brilliant, but also deeply shocking,” said Professor Oldridge.  “Indeed, it may seem more shocking to audiences today than when it was made. This event will, I hope, open up a discussion of the censorship of challenging works of art, as well as the many other issues raised by this extraordinary, brilliant and painful piece of drama.”

Professor Oldridge specialises in religious history. He is particularly interested in the Devil, witchcraft, and the supernatural, and the media representation of these things today.

He explained how Potter’s TV play was due to appear as part of the BBC’s ‘Play for Today’ series in 1976.  But the then director of TV programmes decided to stop the broadcast due to the content.  It was eventually shown many years later in 1987. Professor Oldridge believes the controversial subject matter of the play makes it a fascinating case study in censorship.

“This is strong and difficult material,” he said. “It is a serious work of art by one of the greatest TV writers, brilliantly performed, and dealing with profound religious and moral questions.  These include the nature of suffering in a world that some believe was created by a loving God, and the causes of evil.”

Tickets for the event are £2.50 and booking is essential. Book tickets on The Hive website’s ‘Out Loud’ What’s On webpage https://www.thehiveworcester.org/out-loud.html.

Attendees are warned that the material shown is not suitable for children and contains content that may offend.

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