It’s funny what some people find offensive. That’s funny-peculiar, not funny-ha-ha. Newtownabbey Borough Council have found a dramatic performance by the Reduced Shakespeare Company offensive without ever having attended a performance. I think all critics should take note: you don’t have to go to the film/play or read the book or visit the art gallery. Just get somebody to tell you about a wee bit of it.
I caught part of a radio interview with one of the objecting (as distinct from objectionable) people. He said the Reduced Shakespeare Company had described themselves as “putting the fun in fundamentalism”. This, the objecting man said, was objectionable and offensive. Blank the play from your mind for a moment and think about that. If you don’t fall over the back of the sofa laughing you’re probably so dull-witted you should stand for election to Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Actually, despite what I’ve said, when you stand back far enough, this isn’t funny at all. What it’s saying is that what is moral and not moral can be decided by a small group. In other words, this small group knows what God wants whereas you don’t. Not content with doing themselves what they believe God wants, they are determined that everybody else, or as many people as they can arrange it for, will do what God wants. Or what they think God wants.
I’m prepared to bet that a number of the people objecting to the play – that is, intent on forcing the rest of us to follow their notion of good (which of course means it’s not good at all, because you can’t do good or bad when you’re being forced to do something – moral actions must involve choice) …Where was I? Oh yes, that bet. I’ll bet at least some of those objectionable objectors believe that, as a practising Catholic, I will burn in hell for all eternity. And if you’re a practising Catholic, so will you. And so probably will most of the other people in the world, Catholic or otherwise, who don’t share the religious convictions of the objectors. Call me old-fashioned but I find that objectionable. If I could I’d ban such opinions. Holier-than-thou is one thing, but this verges on moral fascism.
A final thought: all this is very, very good for the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Why? Because somehow, somewhere, that show of theirs is going to be put on, either in Newtownabbey or outside it, and people otherwise not interested in theatre are going to be lining up to see it. They owe Newtownabbey Borough Council a huge vote of thanks. You couldn’t buy this kind of publicity.