Video: Play’s rapturous reception proves folly of initial ban

It is the fourth birthday of the Theatre at The Mill today.

The Newtownabbey auditorium opened its doors on January 30 in 2010.

The opening night of the (Reduced Shakepeare Company's comedy: The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) at the Theatre of the Mill in Newtownabbey

The opening night of the (Reduced Shakepeare Company's comedy: The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) at the Theatre of the Mill in Newtownabbey

And what a day to celebrate its anniversary, in the full glare of publicity.

Last night its seats were filled for the controversial satire on the Bible, and they will be filled again for the second and final night of the production this evening.

It was clear from the moment the three-man team of actors came on stage that the DUP had made a blunder in banning the play.

No DUP councillors seemed to be in the crowd, although rival politicians were present.

Not only was the theatre crammed for the event, there was huge goodwill from the audience towards the visitors, known as the Reduced Shakespeare Company, as soon as the trio of semi-clad actors first appeared on stage in a joking reference to the biblical story of early man.

The crowd laughed its way through the production, at times shrieking with pleasure, before rising in a spontaneous standing ovation at the end of the performance, which lasted 90 minutes excluding the interval.

So is the play as good as that reception suggested?

It depends heavily on your sense of humour – and I am not referring to whether you think it acceptable to poke fun at religion.

Part of me was dreading last night’s show, because I sensed that it wouldn’t be my sense of humour. There are few less enjoyable ways to spend an evening than sitting glum-faced, trying to force a smile, while all around you are wiping away tears of laughter.

But last night many of my smiles were genuine, and I even managed chuckles at the often clever (but sometimes childish) wit.

As to whether or not the play is blasphemous, it certainly mocks the Bible, from start to finish.

Some people will despise that, but almost all serious beliefs are open to occasional ridicule, and a literal belief in every word of the Bible could not possibly escape such satire.

To get the most out of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) you really need to know a bit about the famous texts on which it is based.

By coincidence, I have been reading bits of the Bible lately, partly because I don’t know it well, and this enhanced my enjoyment of sequences of the play, such as the sketch on the confusing names that recur – the Josephs and Johns and Marys.

One of the major joys for me last night was the theatre itself, which I did not formerly know.

It is an intimate venue, which came rapturously to life yesterday evening.