Arts Minister 'saddened' by ban on play

Published Saturday, 25 January 2014
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Culture and Arts Minister Carál Ni Chuilín has described the cancellation of a controversial play about the Bible as disappointing.

Arts Minister 'saddened' by ban on play
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
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39 Comments
Peter in Belfast wrote (216 days ago):
"Vincent Quinn": Wise up. You are welcome to air your views but the question is: Is it right or wrong that politicians get involved in a play? Do you know this play was shown in the Bible belt of America and guess how many protests there were? None (0). It comes to our wee country and immediately gets banned. I am embarrassed. I really am.
Simon, Belfast Bus in Belfast wrote (216 days ago):
I take it that these so called political people. ie the unionist have never seen Life of Brian by the Monty Phython Group. that was a mike take of Crucifixtion of Christ etc. What a laugh that was a cult classic . these people should worry about running the country instead of a play which would have come and gone with out a bat of an eyelid. They seen intent on focusing on the small things in life instead they should be running the country to the best of their abillity (which isnt much)
Peter in Belfast wrote (216 days ago):
How dare the politicians use their personal views to get involved in the Arts or anything for that matter. How dare they! I am raging about this. I respect their religious views. I mightn't agree with them but I respect their right to have their views. How dare they cancel this play. That is what is wrong with this country. Mixing politics and religion. That is "selective Democracy" and this country excels at it. Disgraceful.
jim in s'land wrote (216 days ago):
Well said, Heathen in Barnsley.
carrotandstick in belfast wrote (217 days ago):
Andrea in Portadown... This play is based on a Jewish holy book.. what religion do you think Jesus was?
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