A law abolishing theatre censorship has not yet been passed through Parliament, but debate may continue tonight, leaving hope that the debate might be concluded by tomorrow if the government and opposition agree.

Until the law is approved, theatre practitioners are in limbo and unable to plan their summer and autumn schedules, according to a producer.

Much of my work is unconventional and challenging. So, as it is, I can’t plan ahead

Culture Minister Mario de Marco said when contacted that the legislation was on Parliament’s agenda but he was waiting for the House Business Committee to give him a date.

“The sooner the better. Rest assured that I am anxious to get it debated and closed,” he added.

Government sources told timesofmalta.com this morning the House Business Committee gave permission for the debate to continue tonight, leaving hope that it might be concluded by tomorrow if the government and Opposition agree.

Producer Adrian Buckle, who is still battling in court over the contro­versial play Stitching – which had triggered a huge debate on censorship – said he was very disappointed the legislation was gathering dust.

“I understand Parliament has been through mayhem during the last few weeks and it is not completely the government’s fault that such legislation has not yet passed, but I suspect there is a certain amount of procrastination when it comes to this law.”

Considering this was a question of artistic freedom and expression, the House Business Committee was not giving it the required importance, he said.

Although he did not doubt Dr de Marco’s commitment, he said: “This has been on the agenda since April and, while I appreciate this government’s good intentions, I have to say that, in the end, good intentions don’t add up to very much.”

As things stand, theatre producers were subject to the scrutiny of censors who had been shown to have either not understood plays or never attended theatre, Mr Buckle said.

This was not conducive to the aspiring professionalism in the arts and theatre scene, especially in view of Valletta 2018, when the city hopes to become the EU’s cultural capital.

“In my case, I am greatly affected because, for one thing, I would love to put on Stitching as soon as the legislation passes. Also, much of my work is unconventional and challenging. So, as it is, I can’t plan ahead properly because I don’t know when the situation is going to change.”

However, he insisted this was not about him or Stitching but about creating an artistic environment that was conducive to the development of theatre practitioners.

“We are the only country in the EU to practise theatre censorship. We have been condemned time and again by the European community but we have never done anything about it.

“Maltese people should feel insulted,” he said, adding that the law acknowledged that theatre producers were responsible people and could rate their own work better than the censors.

“I also point the finger at the theatre community itself, which I feel is complacent about the situation.

“We should stand up and get behind the minister and help him convince his colleagues that this legislation deserves the utmost of attention.”

He added that the Association of Performing Arts Practitioners and the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts should be leading but were not.

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