No kiss for Pied Piper

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Theatre director Leslie Ehrhardt has fired a young Afrikaans actress who refused to kiss a black colleague because "it would not go down well with people where she came from".

Caroline Forward refused to snog Unathi Dyantyi in the play The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

"It's a mouth-to-mouth kiss, no tongue sticking," said Ehrhardt. "It only lasts for four to five seconds.

"Caroline told me that she was uncomfortable with doing it and that it would not go down well with people where she came from.

"She also told me that her doctor said it was unhygienic."

He said the cast had become "gatvol" with Forward's antics. A new actress was already on board and everyone was now happy.

Dyantyi said the whole incident had left him feeling uncomfortable. He plays a sangoma and Forward's character is an orphan in this South African reworking of the classic tale.

Ehrhardt said he was shocked by Forward because he had deliberately chosen Dyantyi "to show South Africa's diversity".

"The cast performs at primary schools around the country and the children love and understand it.

"We do not want a situation where children think that it is right for blacks and whites not to kiss or get physically close.

"The play aims to integrate African culture," he said.

Dyantyi said he had seen many stage shows where blacks and whites kissed.

"I just do not understand what her problem is. The director obviously wanted to enhance diversity in the play, but she made it difficult for him to do so.

"Every time we had to do the scene she started pushing me off. When we performed she had to take off a straw hat she was wearing and cover our faces for the audience not to see that there was no actual kissing happening."

Forward said when she auditioned for the part she was told there would only be a fake kiss.

"I do have a problem with it. When I auditioned I was told it was a fake kiss. The kiss was unhygienic and unnecessary.

"It's a children's play, I do not understand why we had to kiss. I have been taken off, but I will not go into detail about that."