Published Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Austin Tichenor, co-author of the Bible play being performed in Newtownabbey. (© UTV)
Austin Tichenor, who is also co-managing partner of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, was speaking following a decision to reinstate the performances of The Bible: The complete Word of God (abridged) on Wednesday and Thursday.
"I'm learning a lot about Northern Irish politics as I gather many are," he said.
"We've been doing this show for nearly 20 years and this is the first time a Reduced Shakespeare Company performance has ever been cancelled."
He continued: "I guess I'm just thrilled right now that the show is going on, what they did was censorship, by the technical definition, it wasn't the Reduced Shakespeare Company that was being censored, it was the audience of Newtownabbey, having their freedom to choose to go see a piece of theatre taken away from them.
"The audience now has the opportunity to come see the show and decide for themselves whether it's appropriate, or whether they like it, or whether they hate it, which they might."
The comedy will be performed at the council-run Theatre at the Mill in the town.
Last week it was axed amid claims from unionist councillors that it was "anti-Christian", but on Monday night Newtownabbey Council ratified the artistic board's u-turn decision to reinstate the performances.
Mr Tichenor said that he was shocked when the play was cancelled.
He said: "I'm from America, where they have a lot of strong feelings about religion and Christianity, but our show is a celebration and I know that some people think we're making fun or it's an attack or something, all I can say is that it's not in our hearts, the Bible is a part of our tradition, it's our Bible too, and it's our way of celebrating the Good Book."
The council also decided to undertake a review of the Artistic Board's powers in relation to the incident.
After the ban was lifted, droves of people trying to book tickets for the play crashed the Theatre at the Mill website.
Before the show was banned, 150 tickets out of 800 had sold - now it is close to selling out.
Tickets that were bought before the ban are being honoured with seats still reserved if they were not already refunded.
Mr Tichenor admits he is nervous about the audience's reaction following the attention the show has received.
"My only fear is that they'll come to see the show and they'll go 'this is what all the fuss was about?', that they'll be disappointed."
The Reduced Shakespeare Company hopes to extend the play's run and is currently looking at other venues in Northern Ireland and the South of Ireland.
Local Sinn Féin Councillor Gerard O'Reilly welcomed the decision for the play to go ahead, describing it as "a win win for everyone".
While South Antrim DUP MLA Paul Girvan said, despite not having seen the play, there was enough evidence online and in the media "to show that there things within that play that would cause offense to any Bible believing Christian".
Following the outcome, the Alliance Party's Newtownabbey Council Group has said the decision put the play back on "was the right one", but criticised the move to review the artistic board's powers.
Councillor Billy Webb said: "After receiving further advice the board was thankfully in a position to reinstate the play. The DUP's attempts to undermine the Artistic Board further with a proposal focussing directly on its operations amounts to nothing more than censorship by the by the back door. This will not be tolerated."
© UTV News