Tattoos, Censorship and Scandal

IMG_6179 croppedM&ARL often facilitates the filming of manuscripts for inclusion in television programmes. Most recently members of the RTÉ 1production team were here filming material from the Pike theatre collection for a programme on the controversial 1957 staging of Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo.

Founded in 1953 by Carolyn Swift and her husband Alan Simpson, the Pike Theatre Club served as the venue for avant-garde, satirical and modernist performances, introducing Irish audiences to the plays of Brendan Behan, Samuel Beckett, Sartre and others.

In 1957 their English-speaking European premiere of Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo, staring Anna Manahan, was the opening show of the first International Dublin Theatre Festival. During the performance an actor mimed throwing a condom on the floor. As a result of this notorious action the producer, Alan Simpson was arrested and charged for ‘producing for gain an indecent and profane performance’. After a year of court battles, during which Simpson was imprisoned for a short time, Justice O’Flynn ruled that the defendant was not guilty.

The Pike unfortunately incurred so many legal expenses that it was forced to close down. The Dublin Theatre Festival survived the incident and is now the oldest English-speaking theatre festival.

The Programme, SCANNAL – The Rose Tattoo will be broadcast at 7.30 on RTÉ One tonight 7th April 2014.

The Pike Theatre archive can be explored using M&ARL’s online catalogue MARLOC

Estelle Gittins