Play sponsors develop cold feet
THE infamous Spear painting debacle has nearly scuttled plans to have Pieter-Dirk Uys' satiric play about President Jacob Zuma's string of wives performed.
Rehearsals for the show, titled The Merry Wives of Zuma, had to be cut by two weeks because potential sponsors suddenly developed cold feet - allegedly fearing political pressure and intimidation, director Uys said yesterday.
Drama For Life, a Wits University programme, intervened and sponsored the venue, including paying the 17-member cast.
Instead of the scheduled three-week rehearsal, the cast was only given a week to prepare for the premiere, which was held in a packed Wits University Theatre last Sunday.
The satirist said the play was supposed to run from the end November to coincide with the Mangaung ANC Conference, but it has since been shelved due to financial uncertainties.
"We had a number of sponsors that were showing interest but their sudden lack of interest started to show once The Spear thing started," he said.
"Suddenly I was getting excuses like recession. But I was eventually told that the real reason is that they did not want to be part of something that will embarrass the president."
The Spear, a painting showing Zuma with his private parts hanging out, caused a stir a few months ago and raised questions about freedom of speech.
"I didn't have a budget to pay for the venue and for actors' salaries. Actors had to bring their own props and costumes," Uys said.
The play is set in a town called Zuma, the mayor of which, Mr Gedley, is expected to be re-elected for a fourth term. But his roving eyes and his desire to add two more wives to his herd of three, puts a spanner in the works of his campaign, which is marred by corrupt dealings and municipal dramas involving his sidekick, Juju. The play features characters such as comrade Blunt and unionist Vuva.
"We have a Constitution that protects us and I will do whatever it takes,'' Uys said.