Reduced Shakespeare Company: The anger came from people who never even saw the show
After hitting the headlines last year over a controversial ban, Reduced Shakespeare Company's UK producer Davey Naylor talks to Simon Fallaha about their return
They caused a storm in Northern Ireland last year... and now they're back. Having made headlines in 2014 when their play The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) was controversially banned from, then re-instated, at the Theatre At The Mill in Newtownabbey, the Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) bring The Complete History Of Comedy (Abridged) to Downpatrick and Londonderry this weekend, having played the theatre at the centre of row last night.
And the company's UK producer, Davey Naylor, is thrilled to be back in Northern Ireland again, despite the initial frosty reception.
"We thoroughly enjoyed our last visit here," he says.
"The people were delightful, and we got to share our brand of comedy in a place we didn't often get to visit.
"What we do is totally valid and very funny.
"Why on earth should people miss out?"
Yet Northern Ireland very nearly did miss out, thanks to last year's brief ban.
DUP members in Newtownabbey had branded the play "blasphemous" and the plug was pulled on both performances of The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) at the Theatre At The Mill.
Outrage, national headlines and re-instatement of the play soon followed, but a lark had become a landmark, and not for all the right reasons.
"One thing that bothered us about the furore was that all the anger came from people who'd never seen the show," says Naylor.
"The protesters hadn't even bought a ticket.
"So when the brief ban was reversed, it was a triumph both against censorship and for the people who had seen and enjoyed the production."
With The Complete History Of Comedy (Abridged) - the RSC's ninth stage show - the company has chosen to steer clear of religion and go back to their roots in Shakespeare and comedy.
It's a much greater challenge for the RSC, however; rather than concentrating on a solitary text or author, they have focused instead on condensing a wholly epic history of humour into one play.
Deciding what comedy to leave in and what to omit from the final script proved more than a little tricky.
Furthermore, as an American company, they had to "Anglicise" the piece.
But Naylor is confident the RSC was more than up to the task of editing something he believes they were "born" to abridge.
"What you'll see is a love letter to various different types of humour through the ages, from cavemen telling 'Rock Rock' jokes, to Chaplin, to vaudeville," he says.
"And, being Anglicised, there'll be Shakespeare, Monty Python, Morecambe & Wise, Are You Being Served ... everything, really."
"As with The Bible, the laughs will be very Mel Brooks-ian in tone," adds Naylor.
"But we're definitely hoping for less controversy than last time, regardless of how good that was for ticket sales!"
- The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged) will run at the Down Arts Centre in Downpatrick tonight and at Londonderry's Playhouse tomorrow