For the last week hardline Catholics have been protesting at Paris’s Théâtre de la ville, where a play by Italian playwright Romeo Castellucci is being performed.
Police have kept them penned in outside the theatre since they disrupted performances and attacked spectators of Castellucci’s Sul concetto di volto nel figlio di Dio (On the concept of the face of the son of God) last week.
On Thursday a group interrupted the performance by climbing onto the stage, singing, shouting slogans against “Christianophobia” and unfurling a banner.
On Friday two activists threw engine oil and eggs onto the public queueing to see the show and there was further violence on Sunday.
The protests come after a Paris court’s rejection of an attempt to have the play banned by an organisation calling itself the Alliance Against Racism and for the Respect of French and Christian Identity.
They appear to have been organised by the far-right Christian group Civitas and backed by Renouveau Français (French Renewal), a nationalist and Catholic group that provides security at Saint-Nicolas du Chardonnet, a Paris church that is a focal point for the far right where Front National leader Marine le Pen had her children baptised.
French Catholic Church spokesperson Mgr Bernard Podvin on Wednesday condemned the demonstrations but called for “free speech that respects the sacred”, which he said the church wants to discuss with politicians.
The play’s opponents claim it is obscene and blasphemous.
The action, in which a son cares for his dying father as he loses control of his bodily functions, takes place in front of a giant reproduction of a portrait of Jesus Christ by Sicilian renaissance artist Antonello de Messina.
Castellucci told Thursday’s Le Monde newspaper that the play is “in no way blasphemous or Christianophobe”, adding, “But these activists can’t know that because they haven’t seen it.”
The theatre’s director, Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, has set up a support committee for the play. Its manifesto has been signed by a number of prominent artists and intellectuals, including Stéphane Hessel, whose pamphlet Indignez-vous has inspired recent anti-austerity protests, actress Juliette Binoche and filmmaker Barbet Schroeder.