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Unionists ban “blasphemous” American theater group from performing in North

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The Reduced Shakespeare Company, an American touring company founded by an Irish American Adam Long, has been banned from a Northern Ireland venue after their play, described as a “light-hearted play about Christianity written almost 20 years ago,” was banned.

Local political leaders on the Democratic Unionist controlled Newtownabbey Council in Northern Ireland deemed it “blasphemous.”

Fraser Agnew, the Mayor of Newtownabbey Council, said, “As the guardians of all that is right in society we have got to take a stand somewhere.”

The play entitled “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged)” was to have been been shown over two nights at the Theatre at the Mill in the town, but has now been canceled.

The production was supposed to be part of a three-month UK tour by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, based in the U.S. The company has performed in London’s West End and around Britain without any protest.

Newtownabbey Council in a prepared statement said, "Next week's performance of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) was discussed by the board.

"Subsequently, the chair of the council's artistic board, Councillor Billy Webb, has written to the council's chief executive, to confirm that with great regret, the board has taken the decision to cancel next week's production.”

The show’s publicity calls it an “affectionate, irreverent roller-coaster ride from fig leaves to Final Judgment as the boys tackle the great theological questions: Did Adam and Eve have navels? Did Moses really look like Charlton Heston?”

Reviews for the show have been very positive:

“There is no doubt about it, these three lads are in a league of their own when it comes to vivid originality both in the show itself and its performance. They have sublime moments of surreal theatricality. Sly minds are at work throughout.”

Jack Tinker – The London Daily Mail

“The audience dissolved hysterically into the aisles. The troupe’s obvious comic forbears include the Marx Brothers (wordplay and irreverence), the Flying Karamazov Brothers (madcap performance comedy) and vaudeville as reinvented by “Laugh-In” (pace and schtick).”

Ron Weiskind – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“This is a slick, fast, very funny show. They are skilled performers with immaculate, sassy American timing.”

Robert Hewison – The London Sunday Times

Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry O’Reilly said “This is clearly an example of certain councillors forcing their religious views on to everyone else.”

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