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Theatre fraternity condemns ‘abuse and vulgarity’ towards Bridget Van Oerle by fellow colleague

Associate producer of 'The Suit Concer-tized' Bridget Van Oerle. Picture: Facebook

Associate producer of 'The Suit Concer-tized' Bridget Van Oerle. Picture: Facebook

Published Sep 27, 2023


Theatre manager and producer Colin Law is facing a backlash for his offensive comments and bullying behaviour towards fellow theatre-maker Bridget van Oerle.

Van Oerle shared a shocking text message she received from Law on her Facebook page on Sunday, September 24, which has caused outrage in the theatre community.

Law's message read: “Easy isn’t it … maybe you. will learn a thing or two about humility … c***”.

Law’s message came shortly after the producers of “The Suit Concer-tized” announced the cancellation of the show just a few days after its premiere at the Joburg Theatre.

The decision to cancel the show was attributed to economic factors, as stated by executive producer Dr Mothobi Mutloatse in a press statement shared with Independent Media Lifestyle.

In response to Law’s controversial message, Van Oerle expressed her dedication to her work in public relations as well as her pride in being asked to become an associate producer of the star-studded musical “The Suit Concer-tized”.

She wrote: “I work hard. I love the work I do in the world of public relations and other fields.

“I am very proud of the projects I align myself with. When I was asked to become an associate producer of a recent production I was overwhelmed with pride and so when we had to close the show early I was gutted.

“I am devastated as are all involved and have felt a burning public humiliation. And then at 3:34 am I received the following message (along with a string of others that are still coming in).

“Needless to say I could not care what this person thinks of me professionally, but the relentless verbal abuse, harassment and language is unjustifiable and is in itself telling.”

Law's message stirred controversy within the theatre community.

Director at Centre For Creative Arts: University of KZN, Dr Ismail Mahomed, wrote: “If theatre impresario, Colin Law, was employed in a formal organisation his WhatsApp message to theatre associate, Bridget Van Oerle, would be cause for disciplinary action, suspension and a very strong likelihood for dismissal.

“Both Law and Van Oerle work independently in a complex freelance arts industry.”

Mahomed went on to expose Law’s history of “non-payment” dating back to decades.

He noted that, unlike the producers of “The Suit Concer-tized” who were committed to fulfilling their obligations to contracted artists, crew, and service providers, Law had a long history of failing to make payments to artists and engaging in abusive behaviour.

Theatre academic and former artistic director of The Market Theatre, Malcolm Purkey, also commented on Van Oerle's page, highlighting that Colin Law's problematic payment history extends back to the 1980s when the Performing Arts Workers Equity (PAWE) demanded the establishment of an escrow account to protect artists from Law, who was notorious for not paying his bills.

Karen Lotter shared a weblink containing details about Law's history and alleged misconduct within the theatre industry.

Read Mahomed’s full statement below.

Many theatre practitioners expressed support for Van Oerle in the face of Law's unwarranted behaviour.

Fakir Hassen wrote: “Hi Bridget. Take heart from all your friends here, including myself, who are proud of the way you have conducted yourself so professionally for decades now.

“Most of us in the arts and entertainment field know exactly how you always go well beyond your duties to promote the artists and others that you work with.

“We also know that our successes leave us elated and our failures break our hearts, but I know that you have enough experience and maturity to deal with the latter, without letting anyone with a clearly vested interest, as Ismail Mahomed has so well pointed out, get you down. We are with you always!”

Kate Skinner commented: “Dearest Bridget, you are amazing, principled and ethical. Don’t let this abuse get you down. You rock!!”

Nikki Froneman said: “That man is disgusting. So sorry Bridget but good on you for naming and shaming! People can not be allowed to get away with such violent attacks!”

Sylvia Glasser wrote: “Sorry you have been the victim of small-minded, nasty, unprofessional vitriol. You are highly respected and admired for your integrity, delivery, high standards and professionalism. Lots of love love and respect! 💜😍💜👍💜🤗💜.”

Warren Nebe added: “Take the high road as you always have dear B. You are loved and appreciated ❤️🙏🏽.”