Bible row show makes a triumphant return to Northern Ireland
It wasn't quite the sold-out extravaganza encountered in Newtownabbey.
But the north west still got the full Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) experience last night as the controversial theatre troupe made a triumphant return to Northern Ireland.
A censorship row in January saw the stars of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) banned from Newtownabbey's Theatre at the Mill – for a while.
The play was reinstated at the last moment and the comedy was restaged at the Waterside Theatre in Londonderry last night.
The critically acclaimed tale was performed for an appreciative Derry audience and, next Tuesday, the people of Newry will get the chance to see what all the fuss was about.
In January, the RSC's two Newtownabbey dates went ahead amid a fanfare after the council did a U-turn on a decision to ban the performance – a move that sparked public outrage.
In one those rows that seems to define Northern Ireland around the world, religious fundamentalists complained loudly – but ticket sales soared.
Some DUP members had branded the play blasphemous and an attack on Christianity, but others saw the ban as censorship and an attack on free speech.
The RSC team affectionately refer to the global media storm earlier this year as the "kerfuffles".
Austin Tichenor, co-author of the play and co-managing partner of the RSC, said: "It's gratifying that our light-hearted and funny interpretation of the Bible has turned out to be so popular. As always, we invite the folks who protest our performances to come in and actually experience our celebratory spirit.
"Maybe they'll have a St Paul moment and be converted!" Davey Naylor, general manager of Newbury Productions, said: "We're absolutely thrilled to be back in Northern Ireland. Despite the 'kerfuffles' from earlier this year we have been looking forward to coming back so that more of the good people of Northern Ireland can see what all the fuss was(n't) about."
Chief executive of the Waterside Theatre, Ian Barr, said the venue was delighted to host the production.