International Prize
2nd Mobil Competition

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 1988

Edinburgh Festival, 1989

Sex scenes in festival play are indecent, says Church

What was it all about?

(You might not see his face
but it is
Stuart Heburn as Stoffel.  
A scene of the Traverse Theatre
production of
'the' hit
of the Edinburgh Festival 1989.
Photo Sean Hudson)

during the presidency of F.W. De Klerk
Set on Death Row in Pretoria's Central jail, two white prisoners, condemned for horrific murders, face execution the next day.  Outraged that 'their' President can allow whites to face the death sentence they play out complex personal and political jealousies in a series of bizarre power games.

 "This explosive and uncompromising play is  a study of men under pressure, (and) is often as moving and sensuous as it is horrifying." GUARDIAN

"Tremendous gut turning performances ... Ian Brown's direction slowly tightens the noose until you can almost smell the fear."  INDEPENDENT

The Daily Telegraph,
August 15, 1989


By Nigel Reynolds

A play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which shows naked men indulging in simulated sexual acts, crosses the bounds of decency, the Church of Scotland said last night. Hanging The President is the most sexually explicit play at the festival, and newspaper critics have repeated a warning note in the theatre's programme that foul language and some scenes may cause offence.
The Rev Andrew Maclean, Convenor of the Board of Social Responsibility of the Church of Scotland, said yesteday that the play play could face a private prosecution similar to that brought against The Romans in Britain, a play at the National Theatre which portrayed a male rape.
The board had received no complaints, but if it did it would send a representative to see the play, he said.
Hanging The President, by Michele Celeste, an Italian, opened at  Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre last week and is due to run for three weeks.
It portrays two whitemen locked in a cell in a South African prison the night before the are due to be hanged.
Although critics and audiences have been shocked by some of the scenes, which include oral sex, buggery and masturbation, the play has been highly praised.
Mr Ian Brown, director of the theatre, said yesterday he had not received one complaint.  “Most of the action is suggested.  The audience at the Traverse expects to be hit betwween the eyes with something,” he said.
Although audiences have reported clearly seeing two simulated acts of buggery and one of oral sex, Mr Brown claims that they were no more than fleeting moments which audiences imagined they saw for longer because of the power of the play.

"A production of such staggering intensity and brilliance"
(GUARDIAN, London)
Stoffel (Stuart Hepburn),
Nak (Mark Faith);
Chief Warden (Bill Leadbitter).
(Photo Sean Hudson)

"A rare and totally convincing work
of theatre that demands to be seen"