Religious protests fail to materialise at ban storm Bible spoof play
All's well that ends well for the Reduced Shakespeare Company.
The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged) made international headlines before even one line was spoken.
Despite being banned and then unbanned by Newtownabbey Borough Council and amid threats of protests by religious fundamentalists, the highly anticipated opening night went ahead uninterrupted – and has even inspired one man to reread the Bible.
There was not one protester or placard in sight, except for the one wrapped around the BBC's Stephen Nolan enticing people to his show afterwards.
A police patrol arrived at Newtownabbey's Theatre At The Mill but left shortly afterwards as there was nothing to police.
The venue was buzzing as people arrived in their droves to see the play that had caused so much controversy – many of them drawn to it for that very reason.
One woman who attends the theatre regularly said she had never seen it so busy.
Anger had been growing since it was revealed the council's artistic board – comprising councillors and independent members – had pulled the plug on the show.
DUP members had branded the play "blasphemous" and an attack on Christianity, but the decision caused outrage.
Then on Monday night the artistic board announced it had reversed its decision – an announcement that was backed by the full council.
So it was curtain up at 7.45pm and during the show the cast even gave a nod to their cancellation as they performed a skit on the Ten Commandments, adding: "Thou shall not ban the Reduced Shakespeare Company."
It was a long and turbulent road to get the actors finally treading the boards – but was it all worth it?
The answer was a resounding yes.
Lena Grimes (34), from Newtownabbey, said: "It was actually very funny. It's not what we expected but I don't see what all the fuss was about."
Linda Caldwell (55), from Islandmagee, had seen the group perform before.
She said: "It's not as controversial as everyone was making it out to be – it's just as funny.
"The controversy has made it all the more exciting. With a full house there is a better atmosphere, giving them extra energy in the performance."
Drew Millar (59), from Belfast, said it had inspired him to read the Bible again.
"I saw them before and it made me want to revisit reading Shakespeare. This time it's renewed my interest in the Bible, and I do intend to start reading it again when I get home.
"The controversy made me aware of the play but it is very amusing that it becoming a sell-out was the result."
Tina McKenzie and Connor Clements of NI21 added their praise to the already glowing reviews. "It is not offensive at all. It's really funny and actually very informative about the Bible."
Elaine Fagan (48) and son Darragh came to see what "the whole fuss" was about. "It's good fun. I certainly haven't heard anything offensive," Elaine said.
"It's really funny – it's cool," added 11-year-old Darragh.
Elizabeth Jess (55) and daughter Charlotte (27), from Carrickfergus, won their tickets in a competition. "The audience was loving it; they were clapping every two minutes. They asked if anyone in the audience had read the whole Bible and some people near us put their hands up – so we watched them closely to get their reactions," said Charlotte. "And they have been laughing their heads off."
Not everyone was impressed, as one man left after the interval, but not for religious reasons. He just didn't find it that funny.
Jack McCullough (73), from Belfast, said: "It's not very funny.
"I'm an atheist – but I will say this, you wouldn't dare do it if it was about the Koran."