Ugandan and Dutch actors work together in anti-aids theatre

August 2008 -

Initially, it was a bit awkward for the Ugandan actors. Instead of acting a character, they were asked to act a sperm. In July 2008, Ugandan and Dutch actors perform together in Kampala in a play about aids, creating an interesting mix of theatre styles.


Hundreds of pupils of the Kampala Secondary School are bursting out in laughter, after they see an actor dressed up like a sperm transmitting the hiv virus on the stage. Yet, this is a serious matter. Ugandan and Dutch actors, students of the HKU (College for arts in Utrecht) work together in this co-production. "A Ugandan audience is not used to this kind of theatre, but they certainly understand it", says Dirk Bruinsma. Twelve students, all part of the theatre group Zoet Zuur, were in Uganda this summer to make a theatre play about aids.

"This is 'intercultural wrestling'", says John Kayongo in perfect Dutch. Ugandan-born Kayongo teaches at the HKU, and leads the group that visits his native country. "Here we see a mix of two different worlds. In Uganda the actors generally come up with a story line, then divide the roles to the actors and they can start performing after that. In The Netherlands we are a lot more used to think thematic. On the other hand, we use more symbols. In Holland it is normal to act an abstract thing like a sperm, while here that is considered very strange."

The Ugandan-Dutch play Sweet Sour is performed three times in Uganda, on high schools. "The Dutch actors also had to adapt to the situation", says Kayongo. "Here they had to perform on the school's playground instead of on a stage." The Dutch group doesn't only perform plays about aids in Uganda, they also do that back home. Dirk Bruinsma: "Our theatre group was founded two years ago, when we made the play Flirting with death about aids in Holland." Around World Aids day 2008 (the first of December) that show will be performed at vocational schools in Holland.