Blasphemy charge on Our Lady thriller
by Cristina Odone A PLAY about Our Lady was banned from the Coventry Festival when the local community, including priests, protested to the City Council and the Festival administration earlier this month.
The Women's Theatre Group, which produced Our Lady: A Blasphemous Thriller, is currently performing the play at the Edinburgh Festival, before taking it on a two-month tour around the country.
But a spokesman for Coventry's Catholic Men Society (CMS), which spearheads a campaign for a national ban of the play, doubts that the play will appear anywhere after Edinburgh.
"We have written to every bishop in the country to warn them of this blasphemy" Bill Franey of the CMS told the Catholic Herald, "and to all Catholic papers. We are praying for its ban in every parish in Coventry, and I think that our prayers will be heard."
The Dean in Coventry, Fr Benedict Tarbuck, admitted to not having read the play, but he said that "all I needed to see was the subtitle and I knew it had to be stopped. I discussed it with the Council, and they agreed that since they had received so many letters from Catholics and non-Catholics, the play should not go on."
Asked if he were taking part in the CMS campaign to ban Our Lady from theatres nationwide, Fr Tarbuck said that "as far as I am concerned, the matter is closed. It is up to the rest of the country to ban it there."
A spokeswoman for the London-based Women's Theatre Group condemned the Coventry incident as "censorship". She pointed out that "nobody had read the play, just the subtitle on the publicity leaflet." Despite the ban in Coventry. the Group will "not cancel any perfomances."
The administrator for the Belgrade Theatre Company, which sponsors the annual Coventry Festival, Tana Wolf, told the Catholic Herald that Our Lady was dropped from the programme because "the public as a whole was very upset. We received a tremendous volume of protests."
Ms Wolf stressed that although Coventry's population does have a large number of Catholics, "the complaints were not all from one particular section of the community. Our festival aims to please everyone: if to do so means dropping one of 150 events scheduled, then we feel we should drop the event."
In Edinburgh, meanwhile, the play does not seem to be causing any controversy. St John the Baptist's parish priest, Fr Francis Hoiden, said he had not received any warnings about the play, which opened this week at the Pleasance Theatre.
Christopher Richardson, who runs the Pleasance Theatre, denied that Our Lady was blasphemous, and said that "we have had no problems with it.