Protest fails to stop gay Jesus playing the Fringe

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PROTESTERS FAILED to stop the opening of Corpus Christi, a play at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival in which Jesus is "converted" to homosexuality by Judas Iscariot.

The Rev Jack Glass, a Baptist minister wearing a crown of thorns, led 70 parishioners in presenting 30 pieces of silver to Stephen Billington, better known as Greg Kelly in the television soap Coronation Street, when he arrived at the theatre to play Judas. Banners declaring, "It's Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve" and "Saviour Newly Offended", lined the entrance as some of those attending the opening shouted "Nazis" at the demonstrators.

Earlier, the box office manager for the Bedlam Theatre - a converted church - found several women praying in the lavatories. "They had their hands against the wall," said Kevin Wilson, spokesman for the production. "They were very emotional. They said they were cleansing the theatre. They said that the show would not be stopped by them but by an act of God."

Before the performance, police checked the theatre for bombs, after earlier death threats against Terence McNally, the playwright. There were violent protests when the play ran in New York. Mr McNally has said: "I have been told that I will go to hell and that someone will pray for me on judgement day."

Outside the theatre, Bill Irvine, 62, carried a banner saying: "I'm an ex-gay." Mr Irvine said: "I was a homosexual but I asked God for help and am now cleansed. I pray now that God will cleanse these people of their sinful ways that allows them to watch this play."

Mr Glass, pastor for the Zion Baptist Church, said: "This is a spoof about a poof. This blasphemous play is making the Lord out to be a homosexual. It's wrong and vile. Our protest is not hatred for homosexuals, but a protest about the practice of homosexuality and portraying our saviour as one."

The opening night of Corpus Christi was a sell-out, as so often with Edinburgh plays that gain the "controversial" tag. It was, however, poorly received by the critics.

Mr Wilson maintained the show was inoffensive. "The basic message here is that Jesus is for everyone," he said.

Meanwhile, The Secret Life of Charlie Chaplin opened with its allegations that the film star was a paedophile. Chaplin's life is seen through the eyes of Lita Grey, who was 10 when she met him, 15 when she became pregnant and 22 when the couple divorced in 1926. "It's where sex and drugs meet silent films," said Polly Wiseman, of the cast.

The author, Anton Binder, said: "The play is about how the press tried to bring down this great public figure, without regarding him as a human being. There are a lot of parallels with Monica Lewinsky, who, like Lita, was a woman manipulated into this great media event."