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The Independent Culture
Bryony Lavery's Nothing Compares To You at Birmingham Rep is producing audible gasps from audiences unused to seeing women kiss onstage. Thirty years ago, the mere idea of a play dealing with - gasp - lesbianism would probably have induced heart-failure in the Lord Chamberlain, the man responsible for theatrical censorship. Until its abolition in 1968, all plays were subject to his intense scrutiny. References to sex were ruthlessly expunged and texts regarded as insupportable were banned. The Killing of Sister George slipped under the wire as the word "lesbian" remained unspoken. Whew.

Those, of course, were the dark ages. It's much better now. Darling, we've even had kd lang being shaved by Cindy Crawford on the cover of the style bible Vanity Fair. There are more gay plays than you can shake a stick at... except that they're all about gay men. If it had been left to theatre to "promote" lesbianism, (in the words of Section 28), it would probably have died out were it not for Sarah Daniels, Phyllis Nagy and the odd Gay Sweatshop play.

The West End has flirted with the issue. Daphne du Maurier's newly-discovered lesbianism illuminated the revival of September Tide. Vita and Virginia at the Ambassadors spoke movingly - no touching, please- of the love between the two women. Perhaps the revival of the deliciously dated Sister George at the same theatre (with Miriam Margolyes and Serena Evans, above) will encourage contemporary writers to view the topic with a fresher eye.

`The Killing of Sister George' opens Tue, Ambassadors, West Street, WC2 (0171-836 6111)

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