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Axed play rides high after Newtownabbey DUP storm

Published 27/01/2014

David Roy




IF all the world's a stage, The Reduced Shakespeare Company are very much in the international spotlight thanks to Newtownabbey Borough Council.

The DUP-led council's decision to ban the theatre company's satirical show The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) provoked a deluge of support for the group from around the globe.

The religiously-themed comedy is described as an "affectionate, irreverent roller-coaster ride from fig leaves to Final Judgement".

However, the production was cast out into the wilderness by DUP councillors in Newtownabbey after they apparently received "complaints from the general public about the content and nature of the show".

With thousands of supporters taking to Twitter in defence of their banned production over the weekend, yesterday morning the Reduced Shakespeare Company acknowledged the public response to the debacle.

"Woke up & saw we now have 10K followers. Tis a glorious Sabbath. Thanks, @duponline - couldn't have done it without you! #ThouShaltNot-Laugh."

The now controversial stage production was first performed in 1995 and until last week had attracted little flak.

According to the Reduced Shakespeare Company, the father of its co-author Reed Martin was a born again Christian who "loved the play and thought it celebratory of Christianity".

Amnesty International programme director for Northern Ireland Patrick Corrigan condemned the ban.

He said: "The right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right which may only be restricted in certain limited circumstances to do with the 'advocacy of hatred'.

"It is quite obvious that those circumstances are not met in the context of this work of comedy and thus that the cancelling of the play is utterly unjustified on human rights grounds.

"Such interference with freedom of speech and artistic expression should be of concern to freedom-lovers everywhere."

Indeed, other venues in the north have been contacting the group with offers to host the production, including a "250 capacity church", if Twitter is to be believed.

Fans can find out more about what the performers themselves think of the whole affair in their new weekly podcast, due to be available for download today from Reducedshakespeare.com.

As for The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), it looks like its final chapter has yet to be written - despite the best efforts of the DUP in Newtownabbey.