Belfast Telegraph

Bible play ban reversed: Newtownabbey council reinstates Complete Word of God to Theatre At The Mill

By Claire Cromie

Newtownabbey Borough Council has reversed the controversial decision to ban comedy play The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (Abridged).

The Reduced Shakespeare Company production is expected to run as originally scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Anger had been growing since it was revealed the council's artistic board – made up of councillors and independent members – had pulled the plug on the show at Newtownabbey's Theatre At The Mill

DUP members had branded the pay blasphemous and an attack on Christianity, but the decision caused outrage and made international headlines.

But on Monday night the artistic board announced it had reversed its decision - an announcement that was backed by the full council.

Councillors who supported the staging claimed the decision to ban made them look like a laughing stock and there were bitter exchanges at the meeting on Monday when the council agreed for the production to go ahead as scheduled.

A prominent DUP woman broke ranks with her council colleagues to condemn the banning of the play. Alderman Dineen Walker, deputy mayor of Newtownabbey, told the Belfast Telegraph it was not the job of councillors to censor art.

Given the worldwide publicity the Newtownabbey council decision has garnered, several dates on the UK tour have now sold out.

The cancellation of the internationally acclaimed comedy show enraged large numbers of people online and a number of prominent figures, including Australian comedian Tim Minchin and English scientist Richard Dawkins.

Patrick Corrigan from human rights organisation Amnesty International described the ban in Newtownabbey as interference with freedom of speech and artistic expression that "should be of concern to freedom lovers everywhere".

And the Stormont Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin echoed sentiments from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland regarding its disappointment that the show has been cancelled.

Meanwhile, the cast and crew from Newbury Productions and the Reduced Shakespeare Company arrived in Northern Ireland on Sunday.

Messages posted from their Twitter account, which had swollen to more than 10,000 followers since the row erupted, poked fun at the DUP and some of the less liberal aspects of life here.

The Twitter name @reduced posted: "Made it to NI & tried to hit the shops this morning. They're closed until 1pm on Sundays. #ThouShaltNotSHOPApparentlyEither"

A further post from @reduced said: "Woke up & saw we now have 10K followers. Tis a glorious Sabbath. Thanks, @duponline - couldn't have done it without you! #ThouShaltNotLaugh"

And a petition supported by the Reduced Shakespeare Company gathered more than 1,000 signatures.


Belfast theatres have little to offer working classes and Protestants in particular, claims DUP MLA William Humphrey

The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (abridged) trailer

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