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Decision to cut line from play slammed as ‘homophobic’ (Updated)

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The Cyprus Theatre Organisation (Thoc) on Monday slammed the education ministry for its special committee that approves theatrical productions for schools, calling it ‘backwards’ and an ‘instrument of censorship,’ following criticism for removing a line from a play.

“In most European countries there is no provision for children’s performances to be approved by ministerial committees for state theatres, and very few countries have committees for private theatres,” the announcement said.

Commenting on the issue of the deleted line, which Thoc had been criticised for, the organisation said that they are “obliged” to go along with the committee findings, despite disagreeing.

“For this reason, it calls on the education ministry to reconsider the issue of the operation of this backward and instrument of censorship and proceed immediately to its definitive abolition,” Thoc said of the ministry’s committee.

Earlier, Thoc was criticised for removing a line from a children’s play, at the education ministry’s suggestion, that asked: “Can a boy love another boy and a girl love another girl?”

The ministry reviewed the play, Around The World In 80 Days, following a complaint by a parent to a radio station in Greece, who claimed the play had homosexual references harmful to children, and showed a male character in high heels.

Performances for school audiences in Cyprus require approval from the ministry of education and Thoc agreed to cut the line, despite the disapproval of the play’s director, Marios Kakoullis, as well as the actors.

Thoc said that the special education ministry committee visited one of their rehearsals on November 11, where they were informed to change the line. The director then changed the line, and the show was given approval.

It played for most of November, and following the complaint, the committee was contacted again to review the line, the theatre organisation said.

Thoc said: “On December 6, 2022, the committee head contacted the artistic director and asked him if the offending phrase was in the performance. The artistic director informed her that the original phrase had been replaced. However, the head of the committee insisted that, in her opinion, the alternative phrase used had the same meaning and asked for it to be removed immediately, otherwise she would proceed to withdraw the approval for the show.”

In comments to Philenews, the artistic director Savvas Kyriakides said: “We made the decision with a heavy heart as we didn’t want to deprive the students of it. Our hands were tied.”

The text of the play will only be altered on weekdays for school performances, while the original play will still be performed to general audiences on Sundays.

Deputy Minister of Culture Yiannis Toumazis, who will watch the play next Sunday, has stated his opposition to any form of censorship of artistic work.

The Cyprus actors’ union and worker’s union PEO also expressed strong objections to the ministry’s handling of the matter.

The actors’ union pointed out that the theatre world is one of “acceptance, love, respect, diversity and inclusion” and said it stands against any form of censorship in art and any form of violence and hatred.

Meanwhile, the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People (ASSITEJ), noted that based on its research, no other European country has a similar committee which determines the suitability of children’s productions for school audiences.

The association recommended abolition of the ministry’s committee or changing its composition so as to include actual theatre professionals with proven training in youth productions.

Every child should have access to the theatre so that they can cultivate critical thinking, creativity and imagination, the association said, pointing out that theatre provides opportunities for parents to discuss issues with their child.

 

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