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Brit producer of gay play in Uganda held in jail

Friday, September 14, 2012    

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KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — The British producer of a play about being gay in Uganda is in jail pending his trial on charges that he had the work performed without official authorisation.

David Cecil appeared in court yesterday charged with “disobeying lawful orders” from the Uganda Media Council, which says he staged “The River and the Mountain” in Uganda’s capital last month despite orders to the contrary. Cecil’s lawyer, Francis Onyango, said his client was not released on bail because his passport, wanted by the magistrate, had been confiscated by the police.

Cecil told The Associated Press that the play, whose main character is a gay businessman who finally gets killed by his own employees, was performed eight times at littleknown theatres in Kampala last month. The play, a first for Uganda, was praised by gay rights activists who said it was “revolutionary” in the way it provoked an examination of common thinking about gays. But the play failed to make it to Uganda’s national theatre, where producers rejected the script.

Homosexuals are highly stigmatised in Uganda, where in 2010 a lawmaker with the ruling party introduced a bill proposing the death penalty for what he called “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill, which is now in committee, has been condemned by some world leaders. The bill’s author says he still believes it will be passed one day.

Cecil, who faces two years in jail if convicted, said he was singled out for legal action because he had become the play’s “public face,” the man who printed posters and sent out invitations. The play was written by a British student of poetry named Beau Hopkins, who has not been targeted by the police.

The play took a tragicomic view of the condition of gays in Uganda, and its playwright and producers said that was the best way to look at things. The play’s main character is a young businessman who loses friends and then gets murdered after revealing he’s gay, the victim of machetewielding colleagues stunned that “a good man” can be gay. The gay character’s mother stages an epic but losing battle to “cure” him of his homosexuality, taking him to everyone from a Christian pastor to a private dancer.

Cecil said at the play’s premiere in Kampala that he did not believe the drama was “a magic pill” against raging homophobia in the East African country.

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