Church to stage protest as Bible spoof goes ahead

The Reduced Shakespeare Company's 'The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)' is playing at Theatre at The Mill on January 29 and 30.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company's 'The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)' is playing at Theatre at The Mill on January 29 and 30.
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A Newtownabbey church is to hold a protest outside Theatre at The Mill tonight (Thursday) against a show which lampoons the Bible.

Members of Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church are expected to gather at the venue to voice their opposition to the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s irreverent comedy ‘The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)’.

The controversial show was axed by the council’s artistic board last week in the wake of complaints that it was “blasphemous” and would cause offence to the borough’s Christian community.

However, following a public outcry and claims of DUP-led political censorship, the board decided on Monday evening (January 27) to reinstate the production.

That move, welcomed by many councillors, wasn’t blocked at full council as the DUP “noted” the decision.

Speaking to the Times on Tuesday, Rev Brian McClung, minister of Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church, said that he was “bitterly disappointed” by the move to reinstate the production.

Despite claims by the RSC that its show is “a light-hearted and very funny celebration of The Bible”, Rev McClung believes that it “openly mocks and ridicules the sincere and deeply held beliefs of a sizable number of the borough’s residents.”

Although the show’s two-night run was due to start on Wednesday (January 29), Rev McClung said that he would not be cancelling the church’s regular midweek meeting in order to stage a protest at the play’s opening night. But he revealed that he and members of his congregation would be gathering at the theatre tonight (Thursday) to voice their opposition to the show.

“This will be a Free Presbyterian protest by our church, and I’m sure that some of the ministers from neighbouring Free Presbyterian churches will be joining us as well,” he commented.

Rev McClung said it was “hard to understand” what exactly had gone on at Monday night’s council meeting and why there was no vote taken on whether or not the play should go ahead.

“I am bitterly disappointed with the decision to reverse the cancellation and I am bitterly disappointed with the way this was handled in the council,” he added.

It seems the row over the play, and the huge controversy sparked by last week’s decision to axe it, served as a highly effective marketing strategy for the RSC and the theatre.

When the decision was taken by the artistic board to pull the show last Wednesday, just 150 of the 800 tickets available had been sold. But following the extensive media coverage of the whole sorry saga, nearly every seat for the two performances was snapped up in just a few hours on Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday evening the show was almost sold out, with the theatre’s website advertising ‘Last Few Tickets’.