One of Paris's top theaters was bracing Thursday for a showdown with Catholic extremists vowing to disrupt the opening of "Golgota Picnic", a virulent on-stage attack on consumerism and religion.
French fundamentalist Catholics have been waging a sometimes violent campaign of protests in recent months against works they perceive as blasphemous, picketing plays and pelting theatre-goers with eggs.
"Golgota Picnic" by Argentinian director Rodrigo Garcia, is moving to the Theatre du Rond Point on the Champs Elysees after a run in the southwestern city of Toulouse, where it drew protests and charges of "Christianophobia".
Two men linked to the fundamentalist Catholic movement were arrested in the basement of the theatre on Saturday as they attempted to disable the venue's alarm system.
And the Institut Civitas traditionalist movement has warned on its website that Christians will picket the Paris theater for as long as the play is shown there, from December 8 to 17.
The French capital was hit in October by a wave of protests against a work by Italian dramatist Romeo Castellucci, "On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God". The Catholic Church had distanced itself from the protests.
This time, however, mainstream Christians have also voiced offence at a play that is peppered with provocative references to Christianity, before a musical epilogue performed by a naked pianist.
"Golgota Picnic" is a virulent critique of consumer culture as well as religion, at one point showing actors making hamburgers out of meat and live worms, while buns litter the stage in an allusion to the bread of Christ.
Two "crucifixion" scenes shows an actor being nailed to the floor through his clothes, while in another the actor lies splayed in a cross on the ground, while his face is covered with ground meat.
A long monologue describes Christ as a "bloody devil", and the apostles as "12 losers among the millions who listened to Christ".
The Archbishop of Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois is urging Catholic faithful to join in prayer Thursday night in protest at a play that "insults the figure of Christ".
Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe issued a statement voicing "concern" and "indignation" at the threats, which he said followed a "campaign of hate" against Castellucci's play.
He said Paris authorities would do all they can to ensure "Golgota Picnic" can go ahead, in the name of freedom of expression.
France counts an estimated half a million traditionalist and fundamentalist Catholics, according to the Christian newspaper La Croix.
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