Review: If We Dig – Market Theatre

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If We Dig, based on the life and writings of Luli Callinicos, written and directed by Megan Willson, peeformed by Fiona Ramsay.On Friday night at the Market Theatre in Newtown, the audience was treated to the first performance of a preview run, for a brand-new production being incubated by The Market Theatre. If We Dig is written and directed by Megan Willson.

This work is based on the life and writings of social historian, author and activist Luli Callinicos who joined the liberation struggle as a member of the Congress of Democrats in her youth and contributed to the Fighting Talk journal edited by Ruth First. Her books include Gold and Workers (1981), Working life: factories, townships and popular culture (1987) and A place in the city: the Rand on the eve of Apartheid (1993) that tell the real stories of the people of Joburg.

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If We Dig, based on the life and writings of Luli Callinicos, written and directed by Megan Willson, peeformed by Fiona Ramsay.
If We Dig, based on the life and writings of Luli Callinicos, written and directed by Megan Willson, peeformed by Fiona Ramsay.

The play, like the writings of Luli Callinicos gives a fascinating view into early Johannesburg prior to, and during the implementation of apartheid and the group areas act. If We Dig focuses on women’s stories and tells stories of poverty, hard labour, love, working class living, culture and diversity. We see through these real characters from Joburg’s past, that despite the bigotry, racism, classism and fear that fed apartheid, many of the people working in the mines, mills and factories on the ground did see each other as equals. We see the damage that the apartheid system did to individuals, to relationships and to families.

The play is a solo theatre piece perfomed by Fiona Ramsay and is presented in the form of a response to an interview of Cleopatra (a character based on Callinicos.) She responds with her story and refers to the stories in her books. Fiona Ramsay transforms into these characters to tell their story. Using mastered accents and subtle gestures, Ramsay makes each of the characters completely authentic. Willson sees to it that there is a fair deal of humour scattered through the production to ease some of the tragedy.

If We Dig runs till 6 November at The Market Theatre in Newtown.
The show runs for 1h10m and tickets start at R95. Tickets can be bought at computicket or at the theatre box office.

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