Saturday, 12 August 2017

Till the Day I Die – Odets Play Banned (1936)

Northern Standard (Darwin)  28 Aug 1936  p. 6.

The shadow of the Swastika has fallen upon us! The dark frown of Nazi disapproval has been made manifest right here in our midst.

We thought it was perfectly safe, at this great distance from Central Europe, to express ourselves freely on any subject of world importance.

Such is not the case. Let us at our peril give ear to any criticism of the regime of Herr Hitler !

Even in Australia, it seems, where freedom of thought and speech is a cherished right, wrung from intolerance in days long gone by—even in this liberty-loving country the truth must not be told about the Nazi Terror, though the facts are notorious everywhere; and today appear as one of the foulest blots on the pages of history.

The banning in Sydney of Clifford Odet's play, "Till the Day I Die," may not be regarded as an episode of great importance in itself, but there is behind it a significance to which no thoughtful person can be indifferent.

It is an anti-Nazi play. That is to say, it is a work exposing and condemning in a dramatic form the atrocities committed under Nazi rule upon members of the working class opposed to them. Why shouldn't this truth-revealing play be staged in New South Wales?

Why should Chief Secretary Chaffey consider it necessary to stop its presentation, and authorise the prosecution of its producers?

"Till , the Day I Die" has been acted without let or hindrance in London and New York. Its performance was officially permitted in Western Australia. It can be bought in printed form
in book-sellers shops all over the Commonwealth. Nowhere has it been banned save on the stage in
the leading State of this country.

Left to himself, Mr. Chaffey would not have vetoed it. He couldn't have done so, for he had neither seen it nor read it. He knew nothing whatever about it at first hand.

And that's what makes the affair important. It is stated openly in the press that he ordered the prosecution on representations made by the Consul General for Germany. This is an aspect of the matter that cannot be ignored.

If plays displeasing to foreign Governments and dominant political parties are to be forbidden in the theatre, are we to understand that books of a similar nature will be prohibited for sale? Articles and news items scathingly critical of the lords of the swastiki are frequently featured in the press of Australia.

Are these henceforth to be censored, at any rate so far as Mr. Chaffey's State is concerned? And if not, why has a working class organisation like the New Theatre League been singled out for Mr. Chaffey's prohibitory attentions?

In the matter of anti-Nazi statement and comment, no attempt has been made to shackle the freedom
of the big newspapers and book publishing firms in New South Wales. But now that an amateur theatrical body composed of working people is being dealt with in that way, the sense of consistency compels us to infer that the Chief Secretary intends to make his Nazi instigated ban apply all round without distinction.

If he has no such intention, then his present action is strangely discriminatory, and requires a lot of
explanation he will find it very difficult to give. Censorship in the sphere of cultural activities is a bad thing under any circumstances. We have far too much of it in this country, exercised mostly by political Bumbles and moralistic Mrs. Grundys.

But this cultural censorship assumes a new gravity, it becomes an evil ten times more objectionable, when there is reason to believe that the intervention of a foreign official has been instrumental in getting the muzzle applied.

-H.E.B. in the "Australian Worker."

The Labor Daily  26 Aug 1936 p. 5.
Not Objectionable, Says Judges

GRIPPING CLIFFORD ODETS' play, "Waiting for Lefty," against which allegations of obscenity
were made when it was presented by the New Theatre League in the one-act play division of the
City of Sydney Eisteddfod on Monday day night, was declared winner of the section by the adjudicators, Miss Betty Shaw and Mr. J. F. Montague, last night.

Afterwards, Mr. Montague stated that neither he nor Miss Shaw had found anything objectionable in the piece. It had been adequately presented with a qulck-flre action which gripped the audience, and was the outstanding performance.

"I saw nothing to object to, and it is interesting to know that Miss Shaw, who is very alert generally, also did not take exception to anything in the play, he added. "I did not hear any objectionable passages and did not see a single person walk out. Of course, things which are approved in our day may have been frowned on by people of another."

A representative of the New Theatre League stated that no representation had been made to any member of the League for any deletion. Certain of the more realistic lines had been voluntarily deleted by the League, however.

He added that if it had been thought that the play would be objectionable to some, a little more
might have been left out, but the danger of impairing the atmosphere of the play and Its allusion of realism had had to be considered.

"This play won the Canadian National Dramatic Festival this year, and played at 60 theatres in New
York at the one time," he said in conclusion.

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