British producer defends Uganda gay play

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British theatre producer David Cecil, facing conviction in Uganda for ignoring an order not to stage a play with gay themes, has said  he and his team have been wrongly represented as political activists.

Speaking exclusively by phone to The Stage from Uganda, Cecil said the media, police and the state’s Media Council, which originally warned him not to stage the play unless authorised, have falsely depicted the production team as  official gay rights advocates.

He insisted that the play, The River and the Mountain, which features a homosexual businessman killed by his staff, was “provocative entertainment” designed to “contribute to the Ugandan theatrical scene”.

Cecil said that while some might view it as a means of raising debate, it could also be exploited to “clamp down on freedom of expression”.

The play was originally booked for Uganda’s national theatre in Kampala, but its run was cancelled by the venue after a Media Council recommendation that it await authorisation. Cecil and his team decided to put on eight “invite only” performances at two cultural centres in the city.

The producer was later arrested for “disobeying lawful orders” and was released on bail last week. His passport has been  withheld and he is due back in court on October 18.

Same-sex relationships are illegal in Uganda and political pressure for tougher anti-gay legislation has grown in recent years.