CHRISTIANS in Wales have reacted angrily to plans to turn controversial comedy Life of Brian into a musical.
It is nearly 30 years since the Monty Python film, satirising the life of a man mistaken for Jesus, provoked condemnation from church and chapel congregations around the world who claimed it was blasphemous. A ban on screening it in Swansea cinemas stood for 17 years and was only lifted in 1997.
But yesterday campaigners vowed to hold fresh protests should the proposed new musical ever be staged in Wales or the UK.
Their ire came as it emerged founding Monty Python member Eric Idle has written a "comic oratorio" called Not The Messiah (He's A Very Naughty Boy), which will premiere in Toronto in June.
The 63-year-old said, "I promise it will be funnier than Handel, although probably not as good."
Although no plans to tour have emerged as yet, Idle has already gained international success and critical acclaim with Spamalot, the musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Stephen Green, Carmarthenshire-based head of pressure group Christian Voice, last night vowed to keep Not the Messiah out of the UK. Mr Green, who led mass protests against Jerry Springer: The Opera, said, "We would certainly be opposing such a blasphemous and scurrilous piece of work. With it being loosely hung around Handel's masterwork, it has got to be offensive to anyone who values music as means of expressing great ideas."
He added, "If he brings that to Britain or Wales he can expect protests. He might not even get it off the ground here because we've been forearmed."
The film became one of the most controversial movies of its era for its satirical portrayal of a man repeatedly mistaken for the Messiah 2,000 years ago. At the end of the film he is crucified by the Romans, whereupon he launches into the cheery musical number Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
The film-makers said they never set out to satirise Christ, but claimed to poke fun at religion itself.
Swansea City Council gained its own notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s for imposing the world's longest-running ban on the film. One councillor said its ridiculing of Christianity made him "physically sick".
Richard Lewis, an independent councillor serving the Gower area, was one of those who voted to impose the ban back in February 1980. The council no longer has such a power - but if it did, Mr Lewis said he would vote to ban the new musical from Swansea, and would also be prepared to demonstrate against it.
Mr Lewis, a Christian who converted to Catholicism in sympathy with that church's staunch views on homosexuality, said, "We were right as a city council to ban Life of Brian. My views have hardened very much. I feel this latest musical is part of a continual drip feed of knocking religion and Christianity
At the time of the original ban, Colwyn Bay-born Python Terry Jones, who directed the film, said it was "excellent publicity", a point that was reiterated by Western Mail film critic Gary Slaymaker in relation to the new musical.
He said, "Life of Brian is a great comedy film and the ones protesting have got the wrong end of the stick - as they usually do. There are so many other things in the world to get het up about. The more fuss they create the more free publicity this musical gets."
But he added, "I'm not sure it's that great an idea. They've already taken one of the most memorable songs - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - and put it in Spamalot, so it does have the feeling of flogging dead horses."
Page 2 - Life of Brian's Welsh connections