In the beginning was the play.

The play in question was “The Bible: The complete word of God (abridged)” done by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Both the troupe and the play have been around for over 20 years, so it wasn’t some new avant garde cutting edge piece of drama. It was a mildly amusing comedy.

The venue in question was the Theatre at The Mill, a beautifully realised piece of architecture combining an original mill building in Newtownabbey with new state of the art gallery and performance spaces. It is run by the local council.

My husband is jealous of the number of evenings I spend runninganddancing, and so we have an agreed date night at least once a month. This seemed like the perfect idea for January’s date night, and so we booked tickets.

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And then, a week before opening night, the show was cancelled. A DUP member of the council had felt that play was offensive and blasphemous. Why it had taken him till so close to the performance to raise these concerns isn’t clear – the play had been approved by the council’s artistic committee months ago, had been advertised on billboards, flyers, and in the theatre’s brochure.

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Why it couldn’t have just had a warning, like the parental advisory sticker on CDs with rude words in them, isn’t clear either. Nor why theatre goers couldn’t just have been made aware of the content and left to make up their own minds.

No. Councillors, without having seen the show themselves, decided that no-one should get the opportunity.

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What happened next was perhaps predictable, but most satisfying nonetheless.  The theatre going public were outraged.  The Nolan Show took up the case.  The twitterati picked it up and gave it the #ThouShaltNotLaugh hashtag.  The Arts Minister and local comedians expressed their concern about censorship.  A Christian who HAD seen the show penned a thoughtful and measured letter, which was widely shared on Facebook.  A petition was signed.

Momentum grew – the show, which had precious few advance sales, began to sell out in its later venues.  Followers of @reduced on Twitter zoomed over the 10,000 mark.

If ever there was a case of no such thing as bad publicity, here it was.

And in a miraculous volte-face, the council reversed their decision, 2 days before curtain up.  The theatre’s website crashed under the demand for tickets, the cameras were out in force to vox-pop people entering and leaving the show, a mahoosive round of applause greeted the first appearance on stage of a cast member, and a warm standing ovation followed the closing lines.


There are some lessons to be learned here.  The PUL (Protestant Unionist Loyalist) community in Norn Irn have a long history of not understanding the importance of PR.  The world’s cameras have seen them stoning primary school children on their way to school, fleg protestors disrupting Christmas shopping, and stern-faced men in bowler hats valuing intransigence.  Could no-one have advised the councillors that this was the almost inevitable outcome?

I was not surprised but a little disappointed that the opportunity wasn’t taken to have a “proper” discussion about what is and isn’t blasphemous or offensive.  There are a lot of grey areas, and a debate should have been instructive.  How about nudity for instance – is Page 3 offensive? Breast-feeding mothers? Topless beaches?  What constitutes blasphemy – is Douglas Adams’ “God disappearing in a puff of logic” blasphemous?  Taking the Lords name in vain on television? The internet meme of God reaching out to the spaghetti monster’s noodly appendage – is that offensive to Pastafarians?

Sadly we had The Nolan Show, a pointing and shouting match with a fair dose of “whataboutery”, but no real depth or substance.

The real winners, though, in the silveriest of linings to this murky cloud, is the Theatre at the Mill.  The staff there handled the cancelling-uncancelling efficiently and pleasantly (though the bar staff seemed overwhelmed with the packed opening night crowd of punters at the delightfully named “Yarns” bar).  Its fabulous facilites have been seen by the world’s media, and those who made the 5 mile trip to the outskirts of Belfast will undoubtedly visit again.

I think art is the ulitmate winner.

5and2: Celeriac Mash

With the weather being so cold outside, I really fancied some comfort food in a sausage-and-mash style. Quorn based bangers are lower in calorie and pack a good protein punch, so I picked up a pack of Cauldron Cumberland Sausages from Sainsburys (75 cals apiece).

To go with them, I wanted to use up the half a celeriac that’s been lurking in the fridge ever since I tried emulating the sweet potato and celeriac soup we enjoyed on New Years Eve.

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For one person, I peeld and chopped a quarter of the celeriac – about 160g and 70 cals. I simmered it for about 25 minutes till soft, having added a squirt of marmite to the water for extra flavour. I drained and then mashed with a tablespoonful of light creme fraiche (25 cals), and a few chopped spring onions.

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I made a gravy by cooking some shitake mushrooms in some water that I’d soaked a sprinkle of porcini in. 1-2 mins in the microwave, for 25 cals.

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It looked very appetising on the plate, was a very substantial meal for under 300 cals.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to try this – I’ve certainly heard it discussed on MyFitnessPal and 5:2 groups before now. I guess I’m not that big a fan of pizza – it’s OK, I’ll eat it, but I wouldn’t be distraught if I lived in a world without pizza.

But the rest of the household fancied making pizza from scratch at the weekend, and I reckoned it would be a good opportunity to try this base, since we’d be preparing the same toppings.

2014-01-18 15.45.06 I nearly fell at the first hurdle – no fresh cauliflower in the supermarket!  But undaunted I got some frozen stuff instead.  I cooked 200g in the microwave until soft. I then blitzed that with an egg, some half-fat mozarella, some grated parmesan, a handful of basil leaves, and seasoned with spicy Sicilian salt, black pepper, and garlic granules.

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Formed that into a round shape, and baked in the oven for 10 minutes until firm.2014-01-18 18.30.10

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Topped with pizza sauce, sliced mushrooms, green pepper, artichoke hearts, olives and anchovies and some more half-fat mozarella.

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The result was absolutely delicous, and I’ll definitely be trying this again.  There’s obviously endless variations of toppings which could be used – cheese and salami will push the calorie count up, but the base is around 200-250 calories.

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5and2: courgettes and chorizo

Well, I’ve been 5and2ing for a whole year now, and it’s become a fairly easy habitual way of eating. But I’ve got lazy about sharing my recipes, so as there are lots of new adherents out there in Tinternetland (Hi mom!), my new year’s resolution is to share more fast day ideas.

Newpapers and magazines are full of January diet zeal, and amonsgt the unrealistic promises and hype, there are some good recipe ideas.  Here’s one I adapted from such a source.


Approx calories in brackets.

1 medium courgette (20), 20g chorizo (100), 6-10 cherry tomatoes (30), 1 tbsp tomato puree (10), garlic, flat leaf parsley. Total about 160 cals.

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Using a vegetable peeler, take a long strip off the courgette, and discard that bit.  Turn it over so that it now sits on a flat base, and peel a strip off the other side – discard.  Peel the rest of the courgette into thin ribbons.  I used a cheese parer, but a potato peeler would do, or else just use a sharp knife.

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Cut the chorizo into thin discs. Put them in a heated frying pan with no extra oil, and let them crisp.

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Remove the choirzo and set aside. To the oil it has released, add garlic (one crushed clove, I used a tsp of ready minced stuff from a jar), and a  tablespon of tomato puree – I used some fancy sun-dried tomato puree, but any would do.

Add the courgette and stir them over a medium heat until soft.

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Add the cherry tomatoes, halved.  At this point I remembered I don’t like tomato skins, but the end result wasn’t too annoying.  Life is too short to skin cherry toms, but if I were doing this with larger ones I might take the skins off.  A couple of tinned tomatoes would work also.

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Pile into a bowl, top with the chorizo crisps, and a spinkle of flat leaf parsley.  I always add parsley to garlicky dishes.  This one turned out very garlicky, so I might leave it out altogether next time.

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