Comedy Bible play axed after Evangelical Christians in DUP complain it mocks their religion
Alliance Party's Naomi Long slams 'censorship' at Newtownabbey Borough Council after artistic board pulls The Bible: The Complete Word Of God from schedule
Published 23/01/2014 | 15:03
A comedy play based on the Bible has been axed from a Northern Irish theatre, after Evangelical Christians in the DUP complained it "mocked and slated" their religion.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company was set to perform The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (abridged) at the Theatre At The Mill in Newtownabbey on Wednesday and Thursday next week.
But the show has been pulled from the schedule at the theatre, which is run by unionist-dominated Newtownabbey Borough Council.
DUP councillor Billy Ball had demanded the production was cancelled, claiming the play makes a mockery of the Bible and Christianity.
"This is supposed to be a Christian nation and we are allowing the Bible to be mocked and slated," he said. "Our parliaments are sworn under it, the courts offer an oath on the Bible, if that's your religious choice.
"Christians can be slagged for their beliefs and I can take that, I don't mind that, but when it comes to the Bible that's different, it's sacred."
The council issued a statement on Thursday, saying the artistic board had, "with great regret", taken the decision to cancel the play.
It added: "In taking this decision, the board wishes to confirm its commitment to deliver on the agreed council’s artistic policy 'to deliver the highest quality performing arts programme, offering a diverse, socially relevant and enriching experience to as many citizens as possible'."
The news has been met with ridicule on social networking sites, where the hashtag #ThouShaltNotLaugh is gathering momentum.
Alliance Party MP Naomi Long said the move was censorship, tweeting: "APNI Councillors Billy Webb & John Blair opposed the ban at the Policy & Governance Ctte as it was censorship."
According to the promotion for the production, the cast "tackle the great theological questions: Did Adam and Eve have navels? Did Moses really look like Charlton Heston? And why isn't the word 'phonetic' spelled the way it sounds?"
Its publicity claims it's "an irreverent rollercoaster ride, from fig leaves to Final Judgement".
"Whether you are Catholic or Atheist, Muslim or Jew, Protestant or Purple People Eater, you will be tickled by the RSC's romp through old time religion. Remember ... Someone is watching."
The theatre company said the play had been shown in Jerusalam without any problems.
But Mr Ball claimed other faiths would not be used in comedy as readily.
"If this was the Qu'ran I would very much doubt they'd go near it," he said.
"As we enter the year of Shakespeare's 450th birthday, why aren't they coming to Newtownabbey with an appropriate production?
"As it stands, I'd be calling for public pressure to have it pulled.
"My wife, councillor Audrey Ball, has recently been put on the artistic board, so I know in future she will speak up for Christianity.
"Those against her strong beliefs better watch out."
The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (abridged) trailer