The critically acclaimed play “The Fall” will be headlining the 10th Annual Youth Expression Festival to commemorate Youth Month this June at State Theatre.
The Fall is a vital new production devised by seven University of Cape Town Drama graduates who share their personal experiences during the #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and subsequent student movements that swept South Africa during 2015 and 2016.
It is a frank collaborative piece of workshop theatre devised by the cast, facilitated by Clare Stopford, and curated by Ameera Conrad and Thando Mangcu, two members of the ensemble. The dynamic cast comprises Ameera Conrad, Oarabile Ditsele, Tankiso Mamabolo, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Sihle Mnqwazana, Cleo Raatus and Zandile Madliwa.
The play has been performed to critical sold-out success at the Baxter Theatre Centre (two seasons) and recently at the Edinburgh Assembly Fringe Festival in Scotland. It has received the 2017 Fleur du Cap Special Encore Award and most recently the prestigious Scotsman Fringe First and The Stage cast awards at the Fringe Festival and amassing five-star reviews along the way.
Given the current climate at tertiary institutions throughout South Africa and events in the United States recently, this production could not be more relevant, topical and perfectly programmed, focusing on and highlighting burning issues that beg to be addressed. The vital new play adds its voice to the national and worldwide debate and youth-led revolutions against injustices, inequality in education, cultural representation and many other contemporary conflicts. The mass student movement (and the ones that followed throughout the year all over the country) provoked worldwide discourse and action.
Social categorisations such as race, class and gender, as well as the ideologies of patriarchy and sexism – all issues at the core of global conversations and tragedies pervasive in today’s societies – are tackled head-on, as The Fall seeks to unpack discrimination in all its forms.
These movements, the inspiration for this production, served as a major clarion call to a great number of people of colour at UCT as well as other tertiary institutions all over the country. The campaign for the statue’s removal led to a wider movement to decolonise education across South Africa garnering global attention. The #RhodesMustFall protest began on 9 March 2015 and was originally directed against a statue commemorating Cecil Rhodes, situated at the foot of the university’s famous Jameson Steps. A month later, following a UCT Council vote the previous night, the statue was removed.
The Fall hones in on the cast’s individual challenges in the movement as well as those created by the overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination. It provides a point of reference in terms of what motivated students to act and why they found the Rhodes statue offensive. The play hopes to bridge the generational gap between the current generation’s outlook, attitudes and motivations and the older generations’ perspective on topical issues such colonisation, sexuality and racial discrimination. The play also looks back on what gains were made and what developments have evolved as a result of the students’ demonstrations.
The play does not offer solutions to the questions raised by the movements which inspired it, but hopes to create and nurture dialogue – as it did in the workshop process – on intersectional and institutionalised discrimination against the marginalised. The need to educate our country is not a matter that should be up for debate; it’s a national imperative.
The Fall project started after the run of Barney Simon’s Black Dog/Inj’emnyama, at the Baxter Theatre’s Flipside and Hiddingh Campus. The challenge of telling the story of students in the 1976 uprisings invited the idea of reflecting on the lives of people of colour in 2016 – which the cast represent. The project raised the question: “If we can tell a story about 1976 so adequately, why can’t we tell a story about ourselves, now, in 2016?” And thus came as a healing process from the experience of Black Dog/Inj’emnyama, while simultaneously taking a retrospective look at the events depicted, and as a reflection of where the lives of students of colour are in 2016.
The State Theatre is the only theatre in Gauteng where The Fall will be shown. As the headliner of the Youth Expressions Festival it will be amongst twenty other youth productions that aspire to become great in their own right. The Festival showcases, theatre, dance, poetry and various other performance art forms from 1-30 June.