The Mail gets a bard on

Ah…the Immortal Bard…William Shakespeare…

I’m partial to a bit of Shakespeare – not all of it, but there’s little doubt that there are some great lines in there that are as relevant today as they were when first spoken.

Over the years people have experimented with the plays; sometimes successfully, sometimes not. We’ve had them in modern dress, with actors exchanging roles, transplanted to a different country or era, almost totally rewritten…in fact, if you can think of anything new you could do to a Shakespeare play then it’s probably been done already.

It speaks volumes about the man that over 400 years after his death his plays are still being performed and new ways found to stage them.

Even today Shakespeare appears in the headlines:

Audience members flee ‘pornographic’ sex scene in Shakespeare play

Yes, the Daily Mail’s at it again…

So, if you don’t want to hear another rant,  just move on to another entry, or another blog, or another bit of the interweb.

Outraged theatre-goers walked out of a performance of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, describing a simulated sex scene between two men as ‘pornography’.

Children as young as eight were among the audience at the performance of The Comedy of Errors at The Old Laundry Theatre, in Bowness, Cumbria.


Well, according to some audience members it was.

I’m actually getting a bit hacked off over the way that this word is used. It’s hardly ever used properly – just lazily inserted into a sentence to indicate something vaguely sexual and, depending on the context, offensive.

The true meaning of ‘pornography’ is the depiction of erotic actions with the intent to sexually arouse.

Thus, if you can see nakedness and sexual acts that don’t set out to turn you on, it’s not porn.

Sometimes something that calls itself porn doesn’t turn you on, even though the intention was there.

Occasionally you see something that was never intended to be porn but you think, ‘Mmmm’.

It’s all extremely subjective, which it’s bound to be as there is no standard format for arousing people and all people are different in what arouses them.

Now, from the description given in the Mail’s story I’m guessing that there was no attempt to whip any faction of the audience into a sexual frenzy:

…one of the play’s characters Dromio (was) guarding a door when a man dressed as a woman walked up to him, pulled down his pants and Dromio’s pants, before the pair simulated sex.

No genitals were on show, but buttocks were visible.

Here’s an outraged Mrs Greaves on the scene:

The portrayal of a sexual act was upon us without warning, before anyone realised, and there is no off-button at the theatre.

‘Afterwards the Dromio character was portraying that he was in some pain and walked around doubled up. This was supposed to be funny but I didn’t find it amusing.

‘They then had some slapstick with breaking wind, and bare buttocks were on show through the door.

The theatre’s manager said:

‘The incidents which seem to have caused offence were an actor playing a clown showing his bare bottom through an aperture 30cm x 30cm and another clothed clown simulating a sex act.

So, we’ve got a square foot of bare arse, some fully clothed man-on-man action and a fart.

Well, the arse and fart are just ‘Carry On’ stuff – harmless, typically British humour.

As for the simulated sex act – with no cock/arsehole interface involved – I can’t see that that would be outrageously explicit. Just a bit of  fully-clothed dry-humping.

If there were 8 year olds in the audience then they wouldn’t have known what was intended to be shown – if they did then you’d have to wonder what their parents were teaching them – and if it was noticed by the kids, which it possibly wouldn’t be in many cases (children very often ignore what they can’t understand)  then if I was asked ‘What are those men doing, daddy?’ I’d simply reply, ‘Oh, they’re just playing, Hermione.’

(I don’t actually have a daughter called ‘Hermione’ – I was just taking a cheap shot at the sort of people – perhaps even Daily Mail readers – who would name their kids something like that…)

Mrs Greaves again:

‘There was nothing on the ticket that said it was unsuitable for children.

‘There were other people expressing their disgust at what had gone on. There was a feeling of shock.

‘There were definitely younger people than my son. In the row in front of where we were sitting I could see children aged between eight and ten.

Personally, I wouldn’t take an 8 or 10 year old to see a Shakespeare play in the first place. Great as the Bard is, I’m guessing that most children of that age would prefer to see a pantomime or something similar.

The story has true moments of slapstick:

One theatre-goer Chrissie Greaves, 56, attended the performance with her husband and 15-year-old son.

She claims an elderly man was so disgusted at the scene he vaulted over a barrier in order to escape the auditorium.

‘He landed with a bit of a jolt and I felt really sorry for him,’ said Mrs Greaves, from Kendal.

‘I applaud his lightning reaction. I only wish we and others had had the presence of mind to follow him.’

The Mail’s story is such a perfect example of the rag’s capacity to appeal to the most narrowminded members of our society with sensationalist headlines and moralistic breast beating. It sets itself up as some sort of public watchdog over bad language and sexual references yet it preaches values of avarice and greed and promotes the superficial throughout its pages.

In reality it has all the social conscience of Atilla the Hun on PCP but very little of the charm.

I’m convinced that this style of ‘journalism’ – and I use that term very loosely – threatens our personal freedoms and enables a minority to bring about changes in what we are allowed to experience in the media – look at its stance during Sachsgate, for example.

It’s not just trivial, self-righteous and intolerant – it’s downright dangerous.

Of course, all newspapers promote certain attitudes and political persuasions but the Mail seems hellbent on some sort of campaign to hurl its readers into some sort of cluster-wank orgy of refusal to acknowledge personal freedom in what people can read, watch, say and hear.

And the alarming thing is, it’s getting quite successful at this…


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