Saved For The Nation: Paintings Show First Gay Kiss In British Theatre

Paintings showing the first gay kiss in British theatre history along with an extravagant drag ball have been acquired for the nation in lieu of inheritance tax.

“They are really wonderful works,” said Simon Martin, director of Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. “On many levels they are exciting things for a museum to acquire. He [Leonard Rosoman] has captured an extraordinary moment not just in theatre history but in British society.”

The paintings shine light on a stage production that was a fascinating chapter in LGBT+ history, and one that helped pave the way for the abolition of theatre censorship.

The artist, Leonard Rosoman, probably best known as a war artist, was a friend of “Angry Young Man” playwright John Osborne so was in the first-night audience for Osborne’s 1965 play A Patriot for Me.

The epic play is based on the true story of Alfred Redl, a blackmailed gay spy in the Austro-Hungarian army. It was banned by the lord chamberlain’s office because of its homosexual content, but determined producers exploited a legal loophole that saw London’s Royal Court theatre turned into a private members’ club for the duration of the run.

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