Bad behaviour brings World AIDS Day show to premature end By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
December 3, 2003

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'The Flame and the Ribbon', an annual World AIDS Day production by the group Artistes in Direct Support (AIDS), ended abruptly on Monday night at the National Cultural Centre because of the vulgar behaviour of some of the patrons attending the function.

The drama production, which is used to convey strong messages on HIV and AIDS, was more than half way through when Desiree Edghill, a founder member of the group, announced that the show had come to a premature end. She said that because of the behaviour of some members of the audience, which affected the actors and their performances, a decision was taken to discontinue the show. She noted that last year's production had seen the same behaviour by some persons and that show had also been stopped.

Decrying the bad manners, Edghill said that had the disruptive persons been asked to leave and refunded the meagre $100 they had paid to enter the cultural centre, some would have cried discrimination.

The drama, titled 'Against All Odds' told the story of an HIV positive young woman who many persons discriminated against. However, she had some supportive friends who allowed themselves to be called "AIDS victims" because of their love for their friend. Its real focus was on stigma and discrimination, on which the World AIDS Day theme is centred.

Just after the show commenced four men dressed in drag, complete with wigs make-up and false nails, started to behave in an unmannerly fashion. They shouted derogatory comments to and about the actors and used vile language even though there were many young children present at the show.

Certain sections of the crowd, instead of objecting to the behaviour, found it funny and let out loud bursts of laughter, at times throwing in their own remarks. There were others who objected to the behaviour quietly but this was to no avail.

The performance contained some humour but it seemed that this was all that was being seen by sections of the audience, since they laughed at almost everything. The serious messages in the lines missed their target and it was obvious that all this hilarity affected the actors, since some of them forgot their lines.

Another annoying feature at the show was the constant loud ringing of cellular phones.

When Edghill announced that the show was over some members of the audience demanded that their $100 be returned.

Manager of the National Cultural Centre, Godwin Saul, yesterday told Stabroek News that an investigation has been launched into the incident. He said he was not there but his officers were and they would investigate and report to Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Gail Teixeira.

He conceded that from the reports he had already received from his staff that it was the men dressed in drag who started the ruckus. How-ever, he said, it would have been difficult to deny those persons entry to the centre. He said that it was not management's desire to have such behaviour at the cultural centre but there were always some exceptions.

He added that because the entrance fee was only $100, management did not enforce the dress code because they wanted the message which the show set out to give to reach all and sundry. "That's what happens when you free up and then you will witness the (crude) behaviour of some persons," he said.

He added that if the show had cost $1,000 or more, certain sections of the population might not have been able to attend. However, he noted that this would have defeated the purpose as the message would not reach the persons who should really hear it.

Questioned about the ringing of cellular phones during shows, Saul said persons who allowed their phone to ring always surprised him since they knew that this was not allowed. He said that they would not be able to seize patrons' phones, but hoped that they would be a little more understanding.

While patrons were leaving the aborted show on Monday night, the `War on Bad Manners' campaign song was blaring from the speakers, but from all indications it fell on deaf ears. The song has been played at the beginning and ending of each show at that venue for the past few months.