Call to pull play that pokes fun at the Bible

Theatre at The Mill, Mossley Mill.
Theatre at The Mill, Mossley Mill.
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An irreverent stage show which pokes fun at the Bible should not be allowed to take place at Theatre at The Mill, a DUP politician has said.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company (RSC) is due to bring ‘The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)’ to the council-run venue on January 29 and 30.

Alderman Billy Ball.

Alderman Billy Ball.

The theatre’s website describes the show as “an affectionate, irreverent roller coaster ride from fig leaves to final judgment as the bad boys of abridgement tackle the great theological questions...”

It continues: “Whether you are Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew, Atheist or Jedi, you will be tickled by the RSC’s romp through old time religion.”

However, DUP Alderman Billy Ball isn’t amused, and has called on the council’s Artistic Board - a group of elected and independent members which approves the programme of shows and events for the theatre - to pull the production.

“It’s probably too late now as it’s already been passed, but I think the Artistic Board needs to look again to see if they can pull this play. It should never have been accepted in the first place.

“The Artistic Board have offended a lot of people in Newtownabbey and further afield by letting this play go ahead,” he told the Times.

“The Artistic Board claims to be representative of everyone and all parts of the community, but at the end of the day it will put on whatever it wants to whether it offends a large section of the community or not. It seems that if you are a Christian in Newtownabbey your opinion doesn’t matter and it is just tough.

“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.”

Alderman Ball, who attends the People’s Church in Mallusk, continued: “If they were doing Shakespeare there would be no problem and I’m sure it would be great. But why do they have to pick on the Bible and make a mockery of it?

“If this was the Koran we were talking about it just wouldn’t happen because they know there would be a big public outcry about it.

“The Artistic Board has made the wrong decision in bringing this play to Newtownabbey and to council property.”

Alderman Ball (pictured) and his wife, Cllr Audrey Ball, first raised the issue during Monday night’s Leisure Committee meeting.

They made their feelings known about the show after Alliance Alderman John Blair had raised concerns about possible political censorship at the theatre.

He claimed that lines, thought to have referred to the Ulster Scots language and the wife of a senior politician, had been changed during the run of a recent comedy production at the theatre.

He warned that “there is a fine line between exercising caution and political censorship” and requested assurances that there would be no censorship of productions at the theatre in the future.

Responding to the DUP man’s call for the Artistic Board to pull the upcoming RSC production, Alderman Blair said: “He is entitled to his opinion, but I don’t happen to agree with him.

“I believe that any artistic programme for a proper, professional theatre has to be very wide ranging and will not suit all of the people all of the time, but that is exactly what wide ranging means.

“In any event the decision will lie with the Artistic Board, which is representative of the community and of the council.

“It would be a negative step to start examining ad hoc requests for political censorship raised on the whim of one member.”

A spokesperson for Newtownabbey Borough Council added: “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company is a modern comedy which looks affectionately at biblical times. The artistic programme provided by the council aims to offer a diverse range of shows by leading arts performers with something for everyone.”