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On Friday evening, approximately 200 striking students held an audience of 200 patrons hostage in the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at UKZN campus.
It was during a performance of Ian von Memerty and Gino Fabbri’s comedy / music show, Common & Class.
The students wanted total campus shutdown and objected to the continued operation of campus-based Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.
The students, pounding on the glass doors of the foyer and chanting, demanded that the show stop immediately to avoid anyone being harmed. Half way through the show the theatre management stopped the performance and kept the audience in the theatre where they waited for approximately 20 minutes.
“We could hear the students outside getting increasingly more vocal and rowdier, so we led the entire audience (including a paraplegic in a wheelchair) downstairs into the safety of the dressing rooms. We put all the lights out in the theatre and for the next two hours, we quietly waited for security and police to deal with the situation. Thankfully we had a pro-active policeman in the audience who managed to liaise with what seemed to be a communication spaghetti – and eventually the students were dispersed, and we could lead the audience out,” explained performer Ian von Memerty.
“The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre staff were magnificent, and the audience was calm, understanding and supportive. Fortunately, no-one was hurt and no property was damaged during the incident,” said von Memerty.
The incident took place at the point in the show when they were performing Sweet Transvestite from the Rocky Horror Picture Show – with Von Memerty in full drag, fish nets and heels as Frank n Furter and Gino in blond wig and tails as his side kick, Riff Raff – having to lead the audience to safety. “You couldn’t script it better!” says von Memerty!
The show, Common & Class, was scheduled to perform at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until 17 February. Following this incident, performances have been cancelled at the Sneddon because the safety of their patrons and their property can no longer be guaranteed.
“The show must go on!” In true showbiz style and not wanting to disappoint fans, the tenacious performers have creatively made a plan to ensure that the run continue with as little disruption as possible. Venue mangers hearing of the situation have offered their spaces in order to accommodate the show, and the Sneddon have offered the production a return date in April.
A block-booking of pensioners was made for Sunday 10 February 15:00 show, so rather than disappoint the patrons, von Memerty and Fabbri are going to the old age home to entertain the residents for the afternoon in their home, and at 18:00 will do a pop-up performance at Kloof Harvest Church.