Come Heckle Christ is an improvised comedy show featuring Joshua Ladgrove, a comedian who physically resembles classic Renaissance images of Jesus Christ.
“I can’t help but feel some of the rage is somewhat manufactured, pre-processed and inauthentic,” Ladgrove told Guardian Australia.
“I think it’s silly, mildly amusing and good for Adelaide fringe.”
In the show, Ladgrove appears on stage dressed as Jesus Christ and sticky-taped to a cardboard crucifix.
He then has to react spontaneously as audience members heckle on him any subject, allowing them to drive the show’s direction.
The show ran successfully at last year’s Melbourne fringe but sparked controversy in Adelaide on Thursday when Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson wrote to parishioners calling the show “blasphemous”.
“While I am a strong advocate for freedom of speech and a supporter of the arts, I believe this production is extremely offensive to people of any religious persuasion and insulting to many South Australians,” the letter read.
“It is outrageous and entirely inappropriate for this sort of anti-Christian, blasphemous performance to be included in a public festival such as the Fringe.”
The archbishop also wrote to the premier, Jay Weatherill, and fringe sponsors asking them to intervene before the fringe begins in a fortnight.
Weatherill refused to be drawn at the time, calling the show’s title “juvenile” but suggesting it was best to ignore it.