Published Saturday, 25 January 2014
The Reduced Shakespeare Company were to perform at the Theatre at the Mill. (© RSC/YouTube)
The comedy show entitled The Bible: The complete Word of God (abridged) was due to be performed at the council-run Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey this month.
However it was axed amid claims from unionist councillors that it was "anti-Christian".
Sinn Féin minister Ms Ni Chuilín said she is "saddened" that audiences here will not get to see the Reduced Shakespeare Company play, adding she "supports freedom of expression".
She said: "I was disappointed to hear of the decision to cancel the production of The Bible: The complete Word of God (abridged). I know that the play has travelled extensively and been performed on the international stage for the past 20 years.
I am saddened that audiences here will not be offered the opportunity to see the performance and judge for themselves the virtues of the show.
Carál Ni Chuilín
"I fully support the views of the Arts Council that the artist's right to freedom of expression should always be defended and that the arts have a role in promoting discussion and allowing space for disagreement and debate."
The Theatre at the Mill confirmed on Thursday that the two planned performances had been cancelled and that refunds would be available from the Box Office.
It is an expensive u-turn, with the cost to the council estimated to be in the region of nearly £4,000.
Robert Hill of the DUP said members of the public had approached representatives asking them to "get it stopped" on the grounds that it was offensive.
He said the council was "willing to take a moral stand" and hit back at those who have criticised the decision by claiming it amounts to censorship of the arts.
Mr Hill said: "Every film in the theatre is censored - that's why there are age limits on what can be seen and what can't. And where do you stop? There has to be a limit somewhere."
UUP Mayor Fraser Agnew added that he felt the right decision had been made regarding the controversial play, adding that a professional facilitator had been brought in to resolve the issue.
"There were a lot of people concerned about the nature of this play, that it was anti-Christian - and we have established indeed it was anti-Christian," he said. "I believe there's got to be some form of censorship, otherwise you'll have all sorts of things happening."
Mr Agnew added: "I would hope that we'll (Newtownabbey Borough Council) come out of it in a very sensible light - we've resolved a very difficult situation in a magnanimous way."
© UTV News