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Jersey's censors ban Christie play

JERSEY's censors have forbidden the performance of a play by Howard Brenton, theatre's enfant terrible, under a 1778 statute which urges discouragement of 'idleness and slackness' in the populace.

Yesterday the playwright said he was amazed by the ban and joined a chorus of voices in Jersey calling for the law to be scrapped.

His play, Christie in Love, is inspired by John Christie, who killed several women at 10 Rillington Place, west London, and was hanged in 1953.

The drama, which focuses on Christie's police interrogation and shows a masturbation scene, has been refused a licence by the Bailiff of Jersey, Sir Peter Crill, and his advisory panel who can censor entertainment on the island, including discos, films and even scout fetes. The ruling, announced in a six-line letter, has raised questions on the island as to whether the censorship laws should continue.

Christie in Love, first staged at the Royal Court in 1970, was to be performed by the amateur theatre group Carapace on three nights next month at Jersey Arts Centre, the island's only theatre.

Mr Brenton said: 'Christie in Love has been performed more than 500 times and it's never had this reaction. I think Jersey should be shaken up a bit. It has no tax laws, it should have no censorship.' Richard Pedley, the play's co-producer, said: 'A lot of people are saying the whole question of censorship in the island should be looked at because it is outdated. What annoys me is that they allow films like Silence of the Lambs here, where the killer comes over as attractive and escapes scot-free, but they don't want to put over the opposite point of view where a killer does get justice.'

The Chippendales and the topless Sunday Sport girls have performed in Jersey recently. The last attempted ban was of the male strip show Hunkmania in 1991, but that was reversed after near-mutiny by 710 ticket-holders.

However, the storm is not the first inspired by Mr Brenton's work. A moral outcry greeted his 1980 play The Romans in Britain, featuring an attempted homosexual rape.

Martin Hewlett, the Bailiff's secretary, denied claims of excessive censorship, saying the advisory team had been appointed five years ago in response to claims that the Bailiff was not objective.

He said: 'I think the last production that remained banned was Bernard Manning, who used very strong opinions and language. The Bailiff is just saying he doesn't consider this piece of entertainment suitable for Jersey. We're a nice, genteel place and we don't want to become like Hong Kong or London.'