The show will go on … but at a different venue after theatregoers were held “hostage” following a student protest at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Glenwood, Durban, on Friday.
About 200 protesting students held an audience of 150 people “hostage” on Friday night in the theatre during the performance of the comedy show Common and Class featuring actors Ian Von Memerty and Gino Fabbri.
“Just before the end of act one, the students started pounding on the glass doors of the foyer. The front of house manager talked to them and they demanded that the show stop and if it did that they would not harm anyone,” Von Memerty said on Facebook on Saturday.
At 8.20pm Von Memerty was in full drag as Frank N Furter and co-star Gino Fabbri was in his Riff Raff outfit ready to go on stage when the stage manager told him that they had a “situation”.
“So the entire audience is on its feet doing the Time Warp when at the end Gino says to me, tell them to stay in the theatre. I did and the audience waited patiently for 20 minutes,” he said.
As the students became rowdier the cast led the entire audience downstairs into the dressing rooms where they waited for the next two hours for security and police to defuse the situation.
“Thankfully we had a policeman in the audience who managed to liaise with the police outside through what seemed to be communication spaghetti – and eventually the students were dispersed and we could lead the audience out,” said Von Memerty.
All performances at the theatre were cancelled because the crew and cast could not guarantee the safety of their patrons, Von Memerty said.
He announced on Monday that a new venue and dates had been arranged.
“We have already sourced another three venues so that the more than 1,000 people who have already booked for our show will have a chance to enjoy our explosion of music and tidal wave of laughter,” he said.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Lt-Col Thulani Zwane told TimesLIVE that police were alerted to the protest at 7pm on Friday.
“On arrival, they contained the situation – there was no hostage situation reported. No case was opened,” he said.
UKZN acting executive director of corporate relations, Normah Zondo confirmed the incident.
“Protesting students caused disruption at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, based at the Howard College campus, on Friday evening. Students protested outside the theatre and called for it to be closed. In the interest of safety, a scheduled theatre show was stopped and around 160 people, including theatre patrons and staff waited for protestors to disperse before leaving the theatre. University Risk Management Services, Public Order Policing, and SAPS were on-hand to ensure safety and security. Necessary protocols were followed to ensure that no persons were put in harm’s way.”
She said the university regretted the inconvenience caused to patrons and staff.
“University Management met with student leadership on Friday, 8 February but were unable to reach an agreement as yet. We remain committed to engaging with our student leadership and hope that after they have read and digested Management’s full response, they will acknowledge that much has been conceded to with regards to their overall concerns.”
The university’s academic programme remains closed until further notice.