'Stitching' producers to appeal court decision on ban
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'Stitching' producers to appeal court decision on ban

The producers of the play Stitching have declared that they will appeal from a Court judgment which upheld a decision by the Stage and Film Classification Board to ban the production.

The ban had caused an uproar, sparking months of discussion. The play's producers, Unifaun, had claimed their freedom of expression was being denied but the court yesterday disagreed. They have said they would, if necessary, even take the case before the European Court.

The civil court declared that blasphemy and vulgar language should not be tolerated in public, not even in plays.

The controversial play, written by Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson, has been performed in several countries.

In his judgement, Mr Justice Joseph Zammit McKeon said that the board had acted correctly and pointed out that the values of a country could not be turned upside down simply in the name of freedom of expression.

He said it was unacceptable in a "democratic society founded on the rule of law" for any person, no matter what they did, to be allowed to swear in public - even in a theatre as part of a script.

"According to our law, the very fact that a person swears in public, regardless of the reason, is a contravention... So if the court allows this in a democratic society, it would be discriminating (against those who are punished for swearing in public)."

The court "disagreed" with the producers of the play that the author was justified in adopting certain language to emphasise the torment of the main characters in the play.

He said the producers had every right, in theory, to ask who should interfere with the right of the author to express his views, but there were other "social" considerations that "usurped all other considerations".

He cited case law of three incidents (from 1976, 1994 and 1996) where the European Court found that individual countries had a right and duty to protect their own society's values.

With "all due respect" to the playwright and the other countries that allowed Stitching to be produced, the judge said, he could not reconcile the play's plot with the method adopted.

He said there was nothing unreasonable in the board's actions to observe the country's laws and view the play as "an offence to the whole culture of the country".

"No matter how tumultuous the relationship of the couple was, extensive use of vulgar, obscene and blasphemous language that exalts perversion, vilifies the right to life... makes fun of the suffering of women in the Holocaust, and reduces women to a simple object of sexual satisfaction... cannot be used."

The two-actor play is about a couple struggling to deal with the loss of their child, so much so that they engage in perverse acts and thoughts to escape reality.

The court refused to watch the play, so like the board it relied on the script to base its judgment. The producers had argued the play must be watched to be understood, adding its message was a positive one.

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