Touring Production of The Bible Canceled Due to Protests; Play's Co-Author Weighs in on Cancellation

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24 Jan 2014

The Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey has canceled its production of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) due to objections from Evangelical Christian politicians from the Democratic Unionist party (DUP).

The play had been scheduled to run Jan. 29-30, presented by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, but the DUP called for the play to be banned from the theatre, which is run by the Newtownabbey borough council, according to the Guardian.

The theatre released a statement regarding the cancellation, saying, "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 theatre also stated that 800 seats were available over the two nights, and 150 tickets were sold.

"For Christians, the Bible is the infallible word of God and it's not something to be made fun of. These people are treating something sacred with irreverence and disrespect," Democratic Unionist councillor Billy Ball told the Guardian.



The production had recently played Jerusalem without receiving any protests from the Israeli authorities.

"I was surprised. I thought Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech were pretty fundamental ideas these days," Austin Tichenor, co-author of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) and co-managing partner of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, said in an e-mail interview with Playbill.com. "We're certainly aware that there's sensitivity about religion, which is why we specifically are not 'reducing' religion or making fun of people's faith. The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) is a celebration of the great stories contained in one of the world's most fundamental books. The theatre is our temple and wherever we perform, we're joined by hundreds of people all lifting their voices together in laughter."

The Guardian reports that prior to the show's cancellation, Dave Naylor, the play's producer, said, "Maybe Councillor Ball should come and see our show before denouncing it as unholy. But he'd better be quick as all his comments have done is increase ticket sales."

"Art is where we can safely ask the questions and explore the issues that are fundamental to our world," Tichenor added. "That being said, I hardly think what we do is 'controversial art' — we just want to make people laugh!"

The Guardian reports that this cancellation is not the first time the evangelical Christian wing of the DUP has tried to ban works of art, films, exhibitions and dramas that it views as blasphemous or offensive, including the film "Monty Python and the Meaning of Life." It also prevented the Electric Light Orchestra from playing a concert because it was being performed on a Sunday.

"I feel bad for the folks who bought tickets to see the show who now won't be able to see it," Tichenor said. "Most people would thoroughly enjoy the show, and I'm sure there'd be one or two folks who don't care for it. But the point is they all should be allowed to make up their own minds after seeing it for themselves."