The Theatres Act 1968 abolished the role of the Lord Chamberlain and censorship of theatre scripts. Obscene performances are still prohibited and those concerned may be liable to prosecution by the Civil Authority if the words and action of a play constitute a criminal offence (e.g. obscenity, incitement to racial hatred, or provocation likely to lead to a breach of the peace). They may also be liable to a civil action for defamation. The Licensing Act 2003, which came into force in England and Wales in November 2005, brought together six licensing regimes for premises which provide regulated entertainment, and dispense alcohol or late-night refreshment. The 2003 Act also removed outdated anomalies, restrictions and exemptions (it repealed the Sunday Observance Act, the Sunday Entertainment Act, Sunday Theatres Act and a number of sections in the Theatres Act 1968). Subsequently, the Licensing Act 2003 (Descriptors of Entertainment Amendment) Order 2013 removed the need for entertainment licenses between 8:00am and 11:00pm for performances of plays and dance where audiences were limited to 500.
The 2003 Act ended the “two in a bar rule”, which allowed licensed premises (such as pubs) to put on up to two entertainers all night without the need for a licence. The Government at the time believed this rule in practice created a disincentive for venues to put on acts involving more than two people, but also failed to protect local residents from noise nuisance. Any performance which mixes live and recorded music requires a licence, regardless of numbers of performers.