The producers of banned play Stitching will enter into a legal battle tomorrow to overturn the controversial decision. If they lose, they intend to stage it anyway, even though they will have to find a new venue.

St James Cavalier is not able to host the play since it is a government entity and does not have the power to defy such a decision - although the board that runs the centre insists Stitching should not have been banned.

The producer Adrian Buckle insists staging the play is a question of "when, and not if".

The Board of Classification, headed by Therese Friggieri, has denied the producer's request for the decision to be overturned, and insisted that among other things, the play was blasphemous and obscene.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Ms Friggieri said she will now have to fight the issue in court, and insisted that unlike other controversial plays, which the board classified as suitable for audiences over 18, this one should not be staged.

On the other hand, Mr Buckle insisted he will be embarrassed when people come to see the play since it will not live up to the hype the ban has fuelled.

"People will think I cut out parts of it, although that is strictly against my policy. My other plays were more controversial," he argued.

The issue has fuelled interest in the play with many theatre-lovers coming out against the decision.

Drama club MADC supports Unifaun, arguing that while proper classification is important, censorship is not necessary in this day and age.

"Mature adults should be at liberty to choose to watch what they want. The MADC is against a total ban on theatrical works," chairman Nanette Brimmer said.

But on a personal level, Ms Brimmer is less decisive: "What we allow today cannot be disallowed tomorrow... How far can we go for the sake of art? When you do away with censorship there are no limits."

She added that if Malta were to follow the rest of Europe by not allowing plays to be banned, there had to be better classification. She suggested introducing classifications such as 'over-21' or 'over-25', as well as making sure audiences were forewarned about the contents of the play.

On the other hand, theatre buff Tony Cassar Darien believes Malta should adopt a different system where producers can be taken to court if their audiences feel offended, rather than the plays being banned beforehand.

He said that when it comes to plays such as Stitching, aimed for a niche audience typical of those who attend St James Cavalier, censorship is not needed.

"People who seek this type of shocking theatre come well prepared for it. You always see the same faces there. None of them need somebody else to look after their morality," he said.

Answering questions sent by The Sunday Times, Culture Minister Dolores Cristina said freedom of expression is a basic human right, but like every other right, it is not absolute.

"In view of the fact that the banning of a play has become such a rare occurrence, the Board of Classification should give a clear and unequivocal statement regarding the rationale behind this decision.

"I believe the discussions that arise on these very rare occasions would be useful only if they take into consideration all the dimensions of the subject, create more light than heat, and fully respect all parties involved in the debate."

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