Adult Film Censorship: Shadow Theatre (2004)





Shadow Theatre

Directed by David Ross / 2004 / Australia / Official site

In 2002, SEXPO announced that SHADOW THEATRE would be debuting in Brisbane. The show was to feature a silhouette of couples having sex behind a screen. However, censorship soon intervened.


Brisbane Sexpo fails to deliver, February 28, 2002

The hype leading up to the Sexpo adult lifestyle exhibition ended with a whimper not a bang today. The doors opened but a promised live sex show didn't go on.

Queensland's Liquor Licensing Division clamped down on the much-publicised Shadow Theatre which was to feature couples having sex in silhouette behind a screen.

"It's really a blow to me personally because we appeared to be so popular with the public," Sexpo organiser David Ross told journalists.

A planned media conference was delayed as Mr Ross consulted with the management of Brisbane's Convention and Exhibition Centre which had been faxed by regulators half an hour before the opening of Sexpo.

"The fax says that in their opinion the Shadow Theatre ... would be considered sexually explicit entertainment and they would consider laying charges on us," Mr Ross said.

The state liquor licensing act requires an adult entertainment licence to stage "sexually explicit" shows on a licensed premises.

The convention centre did not have such a licence and it would take two months for an application to be processed, Mr Ross said.

Michael Tolhurst, executive director of the Liquor Licensing Division of the Department of Tourism, Racing and Fair Trading, said that the convention centre had sought an opinion on the need for a licence around 5pm last night.

A show involving simulated or real sexual intercourse and the potential exposure of genitals threatened to breach the adult entertainment code and the act, he said.

Mr Ross claimed the licensing division was at odds with the state CIB which had merely said officers would be sent to "have a look at" the show.

He said he was confident the issue could be resolved but he did not intend trying to test the law.

"I have no intention of being arrested. We have no inclination to break any state or federal laws," he said.

Mr Ross had no immediate figures on numbers through the door, but said they appeared to be similar to the 7,000 who fronted up on the opening day last year.

Several hundred people, including some who admitted to wagging work, queued for more than half an hour to obtain an $18 ticket to the exhibition which features sex toys, contraceptives, lingerie, massage products and erotica.

Mr Ross said Sexpo organisers had never advertised the Shadow Theatre and the media attention it generated had "taken us by surprise".

A spokesman for the convention centre said the management had sought assurances from Sexpo that all necessary licences had been obtained.

It had found out this morning from the Liquor Licensing Division that no permit application had been received so Mr Ross was informed the Shadow Theatre could not go ahead.

The licensing division had advised that proceeding with the show could result in the centre's owners, Southbank Corporation, being prosecuted, the spokesman said.


Exhibition has plans for a Marquis de Shade, November 19, 2002

There are those who like to watch, and those who like being watched. Whatever your fantasy, now is the time to throw off the shackles and throw on the handcuffs, because Sexpo wants you to go public.

Sexpo, the sex exhibition, is looking for Melbourne couples of all shapes and persuasions to simulate sex behind a silhouette screen in a Shadow Theatre.

The event was banned in Brisbane earlier this year but organisers believe Melbourne can rise to the occasion by allowing couples to simulate and stimulate.

Sexpo runs from Thursday to Sunday at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, and to get the city in the mood, the organisers are frolicking in some foreplay by launching an outdoor version of the Shadow Theatre in Richmond tomorrow.

A billboard at 26-28 Swan Street is having a four-metre platform built around it, and paid performers will get it on (and off) during one-hour shows all week at 10am, 2pm and 7pm.

Their bondage and discipline should keep motorists' engines running while stuck in traffic.

Sexpo organiser David Ross cancelled plans for the Shadow Theatre at Brisbane's Sexpo earlier this year after the state's Liquor Licensing Division threatened to close the show down because he did not have the necessary permit.

Mr Ross said his lawyers had done the necessary checks in Melbourne.

"There are no permits necessary for this type of adult entertainment on a licensed premises here," he said. "There is no legislation to say shadow theatre is banned."

Mr Ross said 200 couples in Brisbane had applied to perform in the Shadow Theatre, and 25 were starters.

Melbourne couples will have to audition to ensure they are entertaining.

But a spokeswoman for the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre said Mr Ross had not informed them about the plans, and he needed permission from the Liquor Licensing Commission and the police.

A spokesman for the City of Yarra, where the billboard is located, said Mr Ross did not have a permit for an animated sign, which encompasses a moving silhouette.

"The council will investigate and put a stop to it," he said.

Police could intervene under the Summary Offences Act (offensive and indecent behaviour), and the Vagrancy Act (wilful exposure).

Last year's Sexpo attracted 68,123 people, and 40 per cent of them were women.



SHADOW THEATRE (2004) Rated X18+

In 2004, SHADOW THATRE had become an 11min short film, with plans to show it at the Melbourne SEXPO. However, despite aiming for an R-rating, the OFLC passed it X18+, which would prevent any public screening.


Date: July 2004
Rating: X18+ (Contains sexually explicit material)
Time: 11m
Format: VHS
Applicant: David Ross



Appeal against X18+ launched

Review announced for the film Shadow Theatre
Media Release: August 31 2004

The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the Classification Board’s decision for the film, Shadow Theatre.

Shadow Theatre is an 11 minute film produced for public exhibition at Melbourne Sexpo.

It was classified X18+ by the Classification Board on 29 July 2004. The Classification Review Board will meet on Monday 20 September 2004 to consider the application.

The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website when a review has been finalised.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body.

It meets in camera to make a fresh classification decision when applications to review classification matters previously determined by the Classification Board are made.



Classification Review Board drop rating to R18+

Shadow Theatre found to be R18+ upon review
News Release: August 31 2004
Classification Review Board

A four-member panel of the Classification Review Board met today and unanimously determined the classification of the 11 minute short film entitled Shadow Theatre to be R18+.

The consumer advice is to be "Depicts sexual activity". R18+ is a restricted classification. Material classified in this category is legally restricted to adults aged 18 years and over. Some material classified R18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.

The Classification Review Board convened today in response to an application from the distributor to review the X18+ classification of the short film, which was produced for Melbourne Sexpo.

In reviewing the classification, the Classification Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body.

It meets in camera to make a fresh classification decision when applications to review classification matters previously determined by the Classification Board are made.

The Classification Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the OFLC website when finalised.


Date: September 2004
Rating: R18+ (Depicts sexual activity)
Time: 11m
Format: VHS
Applicant: David Ross
Comment: Review Board appeal



Full Classification Review Board report

20 September 2004

Ms Maureen Shelley (Convenor)
The Hon Trevor Griffin (Deputy Convenor)
Ms Dawn Grassick
Mr Robert Shilkin

Mr David Ross (Ross)
Represented by Mr David Haines, Consultant; and Ms Fiona Patten, Consultant

To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the film Shadow Theatre (the film) X18+ with the consumer advice ‘Contains sexually explicit material’.


1. Decision

The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) classified the film R18+ with the consumer advice ‘Depicts sexual activity’.


2. Legislative provisions

The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 of the Act provides that films are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines.

Relevantly, the Code in paragraph 3 of the Table under the heading ‘Films’ provides that films (except RC films, X films) that are unsuitable for a minor to see, are to be classified ‘R’. The Code also states various principles for classifications, including that ‘adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want’ and that ‘minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them’.

Further, the Code provides that Films (except RC films) that are unsuitable for a minor to see and contain real depictions of actual sexual activity between consenting adults in which there is no violence, sexual violence, sexualised violence, coercion, sexually assaultative language, or fetishes or depictions which purposefully demean anyone involved in that activity for the enjoyment of viewers, in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, are to be classified X.

Section 11 of the Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a film include the:

(a) standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and

(b) literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the film; and

(c) general character of the film, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and

(d) persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

Three essential principles underlie the use of the 2003

• The importance of context

• Assessing impact

• Six classifiable elements – themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.


3. Procedure

Having earlier received a valid written application for review, four members of the Review Board viewed the film Shadow Theatre at the Review Board’s meeting on 20 September 2004.

The Review Board then received oral submissions from Mr David Haines and Ms Fiona Patten representing the Applicant, which was confirmed in a written submission.

The Review Board then met in camera to consider the matter.


4. Evidence and other material taken into account

In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:

(i) Ross’ application for review;

(ii) The oral submissions of Ross’ representatives;

(iii) the relevant provisions in the Act;

(iv) the relevant provisions in the Code, as amended in accordance with s.6 of the Act; and

(v) the Guidelines.


5 Synopsis

The film, which is of 11 minutes duration, depicts a man and woman engaged in implicit sexual activity, filmed through a screen. The couple engage in sexual acts whilst the woman is cradled in a swing. At times she has her feet inserted into stirrups. At other times, she is seated in the swing with her feet on the floor. On one occasion the woman is kneeling on the floor with the man behind her engaged implicitly in rear-entry sexual intercourse. Throughout the film the couple implicitly engage in fellatio, cunnilingus and frontal and rear-entry sexual intercourse.


6 Findings on material questions of fact

The film shows a couple implicitly engaged in sexual activity. It has no accompanying sound track, there is no music and no dialogue, and there are no sound effects.

The film is a “blue” film in that it is shown in the colour blue – no other colours are shown, nor are black and white used.

The actors are shown in silhouette and a strong light is cast from behind them. The effect of the light is that the bodies of the actors appear distorted and slightly ethereal and distorting the images of small parts of the body such as fingers and the male actor’s penis. They appear to have blurred outlines.

The techniques used in the film (the colour blue, the strong back light and the absence of sound) diminish the impact of the film.

The Review Board found that the film, while depicting sexual activity, did not provide filmic evidence such that a determination could be made that the movie showed actual sex. All of the activity in the film could have been realistically simulated sexual activity. As the film’s sole theme was sexual activity, there were no other classifiable elements depicted.


7 Reasons for the decision

The Review Board based its decision to classify the film Shadow Theatre R with the consumer advice “depicts sexual activity” on the content of the film as set out in five and six above.


8 Summary

As the film depicts realistic sexual activity, the Review Board determined that it was unsuitable for a minor to see. Also as a determination could not be made that the sexual activity depicted was actual sex, the film did not warrant an X classification.



2005 version of SHADOW THEATRE R-rated

Date: February 2005
Rating: R18+ (Mainly concerned with sex)
Time: 106m
Format: DVD
Applicant: SEXPO
Comment: Submitted as SEXPO SHADOW THEATRE 2005



2016: SHADOW THEATRE continues

Shadow Theatre
October 2016

Come see what all the fuss is about! The SEXPO Shadow Theatre is raunchy, titillating and naughty. See male & female silhouettes engaging in different positions on different objects, giving you a ‘live’ show the likes of which has not been seen anywhere in Australia but SEXPO!

The government attempted to ban the Shadow Theatre after its first ever show! It was deemed to be too racy for the public, but after a battle (that SEXPO won) the Shadow Theatre is still here, with new material for your viewing pleasure!



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