Protest drama for Durban audience

Gino Fabbri and Ian von Memerty in the stage outfits they were wearing when they were forced to lead 200 audience members to safety when students disrupted their Common and Class show at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.


THE entire 200-strong audience at the Common and Class show by Ian von Memerty and Gino Fabbri was forced to follow the actors into Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre dressing rooms, and behind the safety of the stage fire curtain, when 200 rioting university students demanded the production be stopped on Friday night.

The students, who had been protesting on the University of KwaZulu-Nastal campus most of last week, wanted total campus shutdown and objected to the continued operation of the campus-based Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

Pounding on the glass doors of the foyer and chanting, the students demanded that Common and Class stop immediately to avoid anyone being harmed. Halfway through the show the theatre management stopped the performance, and kept the audience in the dressing rooms.

“We could hear the students outside getting increasingly more vocal and rowdy, 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,” said Von Memerty.

“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,” he added.

Some of the Common and Class audience in a dressing room at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre – a photo posted by Ian von Memerty on his Facebook page.

“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.”

The incident took place at the point in the show when Von Memerty and Fabbri perform Sweet Transvestite and The Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show – with Von Memerty in full drag, fishnet stockings and high heels as Frank N Furter, and Fabbri in blond wig and tails as his sidekick, Riff Raff.

It was dressed in those costumes that the actors were forced to lead the audience to safety.

“You couldn’t script it better!” said von Memerty.

The show was scheduled to run at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until February 17. As a result of this incident, performances have been cancelled at the Sneddon because the safety of patrons and property can no longer be guaranteed.

In true showbiz tradition, however, the show must go on. Not wanting to disappoint fans, the tenacious performers have creatively made a plan to ensure that the run continues with as little disruption as possible.

Venue managers, hearing of the situation, have offered their spaces to accommodate the show, and the Sneddon have offered the production a return date in April.

A block-booking of pensioners was made for 3pm today (Sunday, February 10), so rather than disappoint these patrons, von Memerty and Fabbri are going to the old-age home to entertain the residents there, and at 6pm will do a pop-up performance at Kloof Harvest Church.

New performance dates and venues are:

7.30pm Wednesday and Thursday (February 13 and 14) at Kloof Harvest Church. There is no performance on Friday.

4pm and 8pm on Saturday (February 16)  at the Roy Couzens Theatre, Westville Boys’ High School.

3pm on Sunday (February 17) at the Hilton Theatre, Hilton College.

The  return season at the Elizabeth Sneddon will see performances at 7.30pm on April 3, 4,5 and 6, and at 3pm on April 7.

For all queries, tickets and exchanges contact Wendy at 082 661 6921.

For my full review of the Common and Class musical revue click here:

One thought on “Protest drama for Durban audience

  1. We are soooo disappointed, but can wait for your return. We ate 71 and 80 years of age so like to go to matinee, don’t drive at night anymore! So disappointing tat one can book Pensioners Tickets on line as we are very far from a Computicket outlet! At the Supermarkets you can only book full price tickets, so we were going to arrive early and hope for spare seats?? 😢😢😢


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