Removal of prostitute role in play stir censorship debate in state theatres

Removal of prostitute role in play stir censorship debate in state theatres

Removal of prostitute role in play stir censorship debate in state theatres

The fictional farce has led to a real life one after the City Director controversially opted to remove the character of a prostitute from the play.

The heated debate on the intervention of the state in theaters has revived after the role of a prostitute was removed from the play “Cibali Karakolu,” based on Henri Keroul and Albert Barre’s comedy “Une nuit de noce” staged in Istanbul.

The claim was first made public by actor, director and theater afficionado Nedim Saban via Twitter. Saban, who has long been a vocal critic of the government’s attempt to refuse plays and alter scripts, told daily Radikal that not only were the prostitute’s lines cut from the play after the season premiere, but that the actor playing the part left over the incident. He also stressed that the “censorship” of one character in a play was the first of its kind.

City Theater General Art Director Erhan Yazıcıoğlu confirmed that the role was removed while rejecting censorship claims, arguing that some of the scenes were taken out because the play had been delayed.

“It is true, I removed not one but two scenes and two songs. I did it after the audience complained during the premiere that the play was too long. People shared with me that they returned home late, the play was too long and that some of the scenes were boring. So I made a radical decision and told the director which scenes should be cut,” Yazıcıoğlu said. According to him, one of the reasons that contributed to leaving out the actress, Betül Kızılok Bavli, were schedule troubles as she played in other plays too.

‘I don’t take orders from anyone’

Yazıcıoğlu also denied having acted after being instructed from superiors, explaining that he was free to take any decision he wanted. “I don’t take orders from anyone. I am someone with a free soul and I make my own decisions. I only ask for a decision from my four advisers. I don’t take any other advice,” he said.

Veteran actor Zihni Göktay put more fuel onto the fire, arguing that “unnecessary parts” had been removed due to the rush to finalize the play, while accusing Saban of “jealousy.” According to Göktay, criticism coming from Saban, who recently launched his own theater troupe, aimed to smear the state theaters. “They are green with envy because they can only fill four or five rows in their plays. They are also jealous of Erhan [Yazıcıoğlu],” he said.

Line suggesting gov’t robbery removed

The same play became the subject of debate in the past for the removal of a line in the play suggesting that the government robbed its citizens, which was considered to "sensitive" in the aftermath of massive graft investigations into senior government officials and businessman close to them last year.

Göktay said the line “The government is the one that robs!” was removed following complaints wondering if it was a criticism of the government.,

“We removed it as a precaution to not offend the audience. Otherwise it’s a script that has nothing to do with the Gezi protests or the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 [graft investigations],” he said.

Saban was also quick to react, claiming that some bargaining occurred after the gala as some people felt disturbed by the piece. He also made another allegation that Yazıcıoğlu called on him not to reveal the removal of the scene, but he refused.

The incident is not to first to hit state theaters. In October, controversy emerged after Culture Ministry officials reportedly removed a number of “racy” lines in a play about German poet and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s life, prompting the cancelation of the premiere. Those sections included lines such “I want to sleep with you” and “I will moan like a rabbit.”

Theater legend Genco Erkal also recently spoke out against the government, claiming that many playwrights censor their plays to receive support from local municipalities.