DUP ORANGE ORDER CENSOR PYTONESQUE BIBLE LINK
Outrage as DUP pressure closes Bible spoof play Complete Word of God
NORTHERN Ireland has been brought "back to the Dark Ages" after DUP pressure forced the cancellation of a comedy play about The Bible.
The show 'The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)', has been pulled from Newtownabbey's Theatre at the Mill – amid accusations of blasphemy.
Two planned performances next week have been cancelled by Newtownabbey Borough Council's artistic board – prompting claims that the decision makes Northern Ireland a laughing stock.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company, which is behind the irreverent play, said there hasn't been a single complaint about it being staged at any of the other 42 venues on the UK tour.
The UK tour will see the show performed at venues throughout England, Scotland and Wales, until the end of June.
Last night the story of the cancellation was being followed worldwide with reports in the New York Times and London's Guardian.
The show has been performed in Jerusalem and in front of choirs and religious groups. Members of the Irish Supreme Court who attended a performance in Dublin ruled it 'juvenile but not blasphemous'.
Playwright Dan Gordon told the Belfast Telegraph he had been looking forward to seeing the comedy, and is livid at its cancellation.
"It is dangerous to censor the arts. It's like the 16th century. I saw the controversy on Facebook and thought it was a clever marketing ploy."
After the decision a spokesman for The Reduced Shakespeare Company said: "This is the very first time in the almost 20-year life of the show that a performance has been cancelled because of the complaints of a few.
"We find it quite staggering that this type of censorship still appears to flourish in the UK.
"It's a shame these voices are drowned out by the few dissenting, uninformed ones."
It is understood Newtownabbey council received eight complaints from individuals and Christian church leaders calling for the performances next week to be axed, but more were made by email and verbally to DUP councillors.
At a council committee meeting on Monday night, DUP councillor Audrey Ball put forward a proposal that the plug should be pulled on the show at the council-owned theatre, saying it offended the borough's Christian community.
After viewing clips of it online she branded it "crude and blasphemous", and her party colleague Mandy Girvan claimed that the show "makes a mockery of the Word of God which we as Christians hold dear".
The full council was due to vote on the issue on Monday but earlier this week the council's artistic board pre-empted the vote and decided to cancel the show.
Sources told the Belfast Telegraph that they took the decision to avoid forcing members of the board to resign if the DUP voted as expected to block the show at next week's meeting.
It is understood that some 150 tickets had been sold and the cost to the council of the cancellation will be more than £2,000.
Newtownabbey Alliance councillor John Blair said: "This decision has brought us back to the Dark Ages and has turned us into a laughing stock.
"I know many Christians who would have gone to the play, who would have no problem with it being staged or if they thought they would not have liked it simply wouldn't go, but would not have wished to deny the right of others to go."
An Arts Council of Northern Ireland statement said it should be left to an audience to "make up their own mind".
"The Arts Council firmly believes in the artist's right to freedom of expression and would always defend an audience's right to attend a show and make up their own mind on its value and merit," it said.
What the critics said about The Bible: The Complete Word of God
“It’s wacky! It’s zany! And a little profaney.” Sister MaryAnne Walsh, Arlington Catholic Herald
“There is no doubt about it, these three lads are in a league of their own when it comes to vivid originality both in the show itself and its performance.” Jack Tinker, Daily Mail
“The RSC put the “fun” back in fundamentalism.” Baltimore Sun
“This is a trio of incredible comedians. The laughs come like a flood. Before you finish laughing at the first joke, you find yourself laughing at the next one.” Ma’ariv News, Jerusalem
“Not even the most sombre, uptight Scientologist could take offence at this snappy, slick and utterly entertaining show.” Scottish Sunday Express
“This miracle of miniaturisation is slick, fast and funny. This threesome’s seamless patter evokes the spirit of vaudeville.” Nick Curtis, Evening Standard
“This is a slick, fast, very funny show. They are skilled performers with immaculate, sassy American timing.” Robert Hewison, Sunday Times
“Pure fun. The troupe seems more anarchic than ever.” Nelson Pressley, TheWashington Times
”In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth and lo, The Reduced Shakespeare Company came to spread the word. And the word was brilliant.” Francesca Glyn-Jones, Worcester Evening News
“Another relentlessly enjoyable romp.” Brian Logan, The Guardian