The Romans in Britain

The Romans in Britain is a 1980 stage play by Howard Brenton that comments upon imperialism and the abuse of power. It was the subject of a private prosecution for gross indecency.

The Romans in Britain
Poster designed by Richard Bird advertising the original 1980 National Theatre production.
Written byHoward Brenton
Date premiered16 October 1980
Place premieredThe National Theatre, London
Original languageEnglish
SettingNorth of the River Thames (55 BC)
Britain (515 AD)
Ireland (1980 AD)

A cast of thirty actors play sixty roles.

Stage history

The play was first staged at the National Theatre in London on 16 October 1980. In 1982 it became the focus of an unsuccessful private prosecution by Christian morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse against the play’s director Michael Bogdanov relating to the on-stage depiction of homosexual rape.[1] This prosecution was defeated when Whitehouse's solicitor, Graham Ross-Cornes, the chief witness against Bogdanov, revealed under cross-examination that he had been sitting at the very back of the theatre when he saw what was claimed to be a penis. The prosecution withdrew after lead defence counsel Jeremy Hutchinson QC demonstrated that Ross-Cornes could have witnessed the actor's thumb protruding from his fist. The case was ended after the Attorney-General entered a nolle prosequi.[2]

Actor-director Samuel West revived the play in 2006 at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, starring Tom Mannion as Julius Caesar and Dan Stevens as Marban the Druid.

See also


  1. Mark Lawson, "Passion play", The Guardian, 28 October 2005
  2. Robertson, Geoffrey (1999). The Justice Game. London: Vintage. ISBN 978-0-09-958191-8.


  • Howard Brenton, The Romans in Britain (London: Eyre Methuen, 1980) ISBN 0-413-46590-X

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