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Newtownabbey Council reverses play ban after protests

28 January 2014

Reduced Shakespeare CompanyNewtownabbey Borough Council in Northern Ireland has reversed its decision to cancel a production from the Reduced Shakespeare Company after widespread protest from local Equity members and members of the public.

The decision to ban The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) was taken by the Council’s Artistic Board at a meeting on Wednesday 22 January after a proposal from DUP Cllr Audrey Ball but on Monday the Board decided to put the play back on and the full Council ratified that decision.

The play will now go ahead as scheduled at the Theatre at the Mill on Wednesday and Thursday 29 and 30 January.

Austin Tichenor of the Reduced Shakespeare Company told the BBC: "I'm thrilled that the Newtownabbey community can now come see the show and decide for themselves what kind of a show it is. My biggest fear is that they'll come see the show and go 'this is what all the fuss was about?'. I think people assume we're coming from a place of hatred and mockery and we're absolutely not. This is a celebration of the Bible and I think anybody who has seen the show, and many people of all faiths have seen the show, testify to that effect."

The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s comedy was due to appear for two nights at Theatre at The Mill. The show has run at venues around the world for almost 20 years and has received widespread critical acclaim. It was axed after some local politicians and church representatives branded it “blasphemous” and “offensive”.

Equity has a long tradition of combating censorship and supporting the freedom of artistic expression. Equity member Carol Moore alongside the Northern Ireland Branch and Committee have been instrumental in opposing this ban and forming a campaign against it. They have been contacting the local mayor, councillors and theatre bosses and encouraged Equity members and others to sign a petition.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company has been one of the biggest supporters of the My Theatre Matters! campaign aimed at encouraging local Councils to support theatres.

Read more from The BBC


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