Play about gay man staged in conservative Uganda

From The Boston Globe:

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A play that revolves around the turbulent life of a gay man in Uganda is being staged in the East African nation, where three years ago a parliamentarian wrote a bill seeking the death penalty for homosexuals.

This is the first time a play exploring homosexuality is being performed in Uganda, and the British playwright and producers say they hope their work can help ‘‘normalize the gay character’’ in this conservative country.

The play, titled ‘‘The River and the Mountain,’’ premiered last Friday at a little-known theater in the capital, Kampala, amid fears the police would raid the venue and stop production. Government officials had objected to the play and blocked it from being staged at Uganda’s national theater.


The new play, written by Beau Hopkins, seems to suggest that the frenzy swirling around homosexuality in Uganda is tragic and comic at once. The main character is a 29-year-old corporate businessman whose mother desperately wants him to get married. The woman pays a Christian pastor to ‘‘cure’’ her son after she learns of his homosexuality. When the cleric fails to achieve her objective, she wants her money back. Then she enlists the services of a private dancer and, finally, a witchdoctor. She never succeeds in her mission.

At his workplace, the gay character’s employees are so shocked to learn he is gay that they wonder aloud, ‘‘But he is a good man.’’ In the end their new hatred for their boss overpowers any affection they previously felt for him, and the play ends as they swing machetes, baying for his blood.

‘‘This could be your brother, your neighbor, your cousin,’’ said Cecil, the producer.

He said the play was not a ‘‘magic pill’’ against gay prejudice in Uganda, although he hoped it would help enlighten some about the complex ways in which sex, politics and religion intersect.

‘‘It’s a play about understanding versus hatred,’’ he said.

The play’s directors plan to have it performed in other East African countries.

And progress makes one, teeny, tiny step forward. But that is how you always start a journey.

Read the full article

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