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Pleasing to the mind, the body and the soul

Andile Ndlovu, Thami Njoko, and Javier Monier in a new ballet by Adele Blank

If it feels too good to be true, it probably is, the saying goes. Too good to be true = couldn’t be better … or could it?

It was certainly dreamy enough watching a wonderfully varied programme of top quality dance at the SAIBC International Ballet Gala at the Artscape recently, with professional dancers from as far afield as Mongolia, Armenia, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt and Mexico. (Patriots need not worry: this international smorgasbord also showcased brilliant South African dancers Angela Malan, Andile Ndlovu and Thami Njoko.)

All this took place at a theatre in downtown Cape Town on a warm, wind-free Saturday evening at the beginning of Spring. So what disrupted the total self-satisfaction and bliss, you might wonder. The discovery that one of the next stops on this tour takes place with the bushveld as the backdrop. Ballet in the Bush at the Legend Golf and Safari Resort in Limpopo on September 9 is a fantasy so perfect that I can’t quite get my head around it.

It would be remiss not to mention the two other performances of this programme at Cambridge Mountain School at Hartbeespoort on September 5 and at the Mosaiek Teatro in Fairland, Johannesburg, on September 7.

Feeling is everything: Angela Malan with Javier Monier and Thami Njoko

But back to my own night of near-perfect bliss at the Artscape. The combination of riveting pas de deux and solos from Giselle, Swan Lake, Paquita and Le Corsaire and neo classical works meant the programme lived up to the promise of being #BalletLikeWeLikeIt, pretty much whomever the ‘we’ was.

The jaw-dropping power and grace of the classic dances together with the mind-bending surrealistic thrill inspired by the shape-shifting neo classical numbers results in a programme that talks to mind, body and soul, young and old, traditional and modern.

Bengingazi, the world premiere of a new piece by South African choreographer Adele Blank, particularly, was the sort of dance that is brand new yet incredibly familiar. It is whatever you want it to be. Feeling is everything; thinking nothing, if at least for those few moments.

Thinking is nothing: Javier Monier, Thami Njoko and Andile Ndlovu

Presented by Dirk Badenhorst, the chief executive and founder of the biennial South African International Ballet Competition (SAIBC), the programme was presented in association with Artscape and supported by South African Tourism. Ballet in the Bush, dance tourism … they seem to be on to something.

Performers included: Maria Rudenko, Artemiy Pyzhov, Monier Javier Jouve,  Anujin Otgontugs, Hassan Eltabie, Mariam Karapetyan, Jonhal Fernandez, Lissi Baez, Dzianis Klimuk, and South Africa’s Angela Malan, Andile Ndlovu and Thami Ngoko.

Book: Computicket. For tickets in Hartbeespoort call Dirk Badenhorst on 083 324 0940, and for ‘Ballet in the Bush’ at Legends email reservations@legendlodges.co.za or call 012 443 6700

Swing into spring in downtown Cape Town

Gangsters and their molls, bootleggers, poets and playwrights, flappers and assorted dandies … just another night at your favourite tavern in town, you might think, but Cape Town’s monthly swing nights, which are launching on 1 September at the Reserve at the Taj, promise a whole lot more.

As winter breathes its last misty breaths, Gerald Schreiner, Daneel van Der Walt, David Lubbe and the Swing Cats will present a night of Prohibition era swing, jazz and blues music you can dance to.

Think foxtrot, swing, tap and jitterbug, and tunes like “It’s too darn hot”, “Let’s call the whole thing off” and “On the sunny side of the street”.

These Prohibition era nights (sans Prohibition of course) will bring a little Speakeasy-style decadence to Cape Town’s kinda sleepy city centre.
Guests are asked to dress the part, although it is not compulsory.

“Think of an old school dinner dance, of speakeasies, flapper dresses, flatcaps and champagne glasses moulded off the breast of Marie Antoinette,” the organisers said in a statement.

A sit-down dinner will be available from 7.30pm, and the show starts at 9pm.

Expect this to become a Capetonian institution!

Tickets available here: https://speakeasyswing.co.za/

Give reality the slip at the Wild Coast 

The more things have changed the more they have stayed the same since the days when it was one of ‘Sun King’ Sol Kerzner’s original palaces of relaxation and fun in the nominally independent Bantustans of apartheid era South Africa.

The resort – set on 750 hectares of natural bush on the Indian Ocean Coast, where the sun always seems to shine – continues to offer a haven from the chill and the rest of reality outside.

You can see forever: The bright blue pool seems to be surrounded by ocean

In this wonderfully warm and friendly world, real life and the flood of news about corruption and capture seem very far away indeed.

One doesn’t want to spend too much time in complete denial of reality, but a little break from it all surely does wonders for mind, body and soul.

For a high-speed re-set I recommend a quick visit to the casino, which always helps to shift me into a different gear entirely. Watching ordinary looking people bet thousands of rand on a single spin of the roulette wheel always has me aghast, setting a kaleidoscope of judgment, envy and thrill spinning in my head.

For a minute you might, as I did, imagine yourself in a faraway imagined place or on the silver screen with Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore playing with a lot more than their entertainment allowance, as they did in that racy and hedonistic tale, Indecent Proposal.

A few lucky spins stretched my own entertainment allowance and kept me amused for a couple of hours. I didn’t mind at all, though, when that came to an end since much fun was to be had outside under beautiful clear winter skies.

Better than cocktails: Foot massages by the pool

A more wholesome but equally heady and fantastical way to forget your cares is a horseback ride on the beach.

This highlight of so many bucket-lists lived up to the dream for me as the sweaty beast I was riding headed calmly for the shoreline and splashed through the foamy waves for most of the ride. I was reduced to the gulping, giggling teenage girl I had never been as I took in deep breaths of fresh sea air and pure thrill.

Even in midwinter a large bright blue pool, which seems to be surrounded by ocean, was always alive with children and the odd adult splashing around.

Less daring adults reclined on loungers around the pool sipping cocktails, reading books, admiring 180 degree seaviews and having foot massages.

Slippery slopes: The Wild Waves water park

An award-winning golf course, multiple beauty and wellness spas, Segway tours and the Wild Waves water park are just some of the other options at the resort, which is much more about family fun than its reputation might suggest.

Once known as a haven of gambling and the risqué entertainment that fell under the banner of “immorality” in the era of extravaganzas, these days you are more likely to see birdwatchers than topless dancers.

At another point in time when South Africa seems to be a corrupt and captured place, the Wild Coast Sun offers a break from it all with loads of sunshine and good times.

Give reality the slip at this resort less than 2 hours drive from Durban, where everything seems a few degrees warmer and happier even on a midwinters’ day in 2017.

Dump maths? Sounds like a race to the bottom

10X Investments called on South Africa’s Department of Basic Education this week to reconsider the “potentially catastrophic proposal” to remove mathematics as a pass requirement in the education system.

“Just when you thought we needed to raise our game in terms of maths literacy, the national education department starts a consultation on lowering the standards,” the asset manager said in a statement.

The education department confirmed earlier in the week that it had started a consultation on proposed amendments to pass requirements for pupils in grades 1 to 9, which would see mathematics removed as a compulsory pass requirement.

10X – which is disrupting the asset management sector by offering simple, low cost, index tracking products as alternatives to the confusing and expensive array of choices available in what has been described as “the most profitable sector ever” – warned this proposal risked exacerbating a number of simmering crises in the country.

“South Africa already has an unemployment crisis, a pensions crisis, a growing crisis of confidence in the education system,” it said.

“Basic mathematics is an essential building block in many of the sectors that are driving the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. To fulfil the promise of this revolution, which is to use new technology to leapfrog many in the developed world, young people need to be given the tools essential to mastery of the technology. Without maths it is hard to imagine how this is possible,” the 10X statement continued.

“The world economy is becoming increasingly science-orientated, with less complex pursuits at risk of automation. Those countries that fall behind in maths will fall behind in global growth and global competitiveness. Those who lack maths skills immediately close the door on many future career choices.

“Besides, maths is not simply about mastering numeric skills. A maths pass is a certificate in problem solving, in logical thinking, in systematic thinking, in applied thinking, in deductive reasoning, in discipline, in application.

“These skills are not only essential for success in many careers, they are key to making good life choices. From balancing the household budget to choosing a pension provider who does not take the lion’s share of your savings, basic skills of reasoning are important.

“The future already looks bleak for thousands of graduates who are unable to find work.
“It looks bleak for the working population too. According to National Treasury only 6% of the population will have accumulated enough money to retire comfortably.

“Who will create jobs and opportunities for these young people? Who will support these old people? It is hard to imagine how having more graduates with lower competencies will help anyone.

“By improving results by merely dropping standards the Department of Education will be equipping a generation of South Africans with nothing but false hope.”
10X called on the Department of Basic Education to reconsider the proposal.

“Let’s avoid a race to the bottom,” the statement added.

Lest we forget …

Cheers to Sarajevo, which is showing at the Alexander Bar until Saturday July 8, is one of those universal stories about people who are not supposed to fall in love. This story about a love affair between a Serbian man and a Bosnian woman during the captured and corrupt times of the Yugoslavian war feels very relevant and personal.
The show about the fine and fragile line between love and hate has us on the edge of our seats. We wince as we see what unfolds when politics goes wrong. We smart as young men and women are set against each other and sent to die in a war created by “old people sitting in coffee shops”.

CheersToSarajevoPIC

Aimee Mica Goldsmith as Mirela and Lamar Bonhomme as Slobo

This hard-hitting drama, written by Aimée Goldsmith and Lidija Marelic, feels very far away and immediately close at the same time. It is perhaps a timely reminder of the hell we in South Africa have managed to escape before … just as we seem to be mucking about on the edge of it again.
Directed by Ashleigh Harvey (Funny Girl), assisted by Sven-Eric Muller (Funny Girl, West Side story, Cabaret). Cheers to Sarajevo stars Stephen Christopher Jubber (West Side Story, Annie), as Peter; Aimee Mica Goldsmith (Warner Bros’ Blended, Othello, Equus) as Mirela; Alistair Moulton Black (King Lear, Sexual Perversity in Chicago) as Aleks; and Lamar Bonhomme (The Crown, High Rollers) as Slobo.
At Alexander Bar daily at 7pm. Tickets cost R80 if booked online https://alexanderbar.co.za/show/Cheers_to_Sarajevo/ or R120 at the door

The normalisation of madness

A number of insights during a debate at the University of Cape Town – Betrayal of the Promise: Understanding South Africa’s Political Crisis – came from the youngest panel member Sikhulekile Duma, a researcher at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University. One, in particular, resonated with me when he talked about how we have normalised madness in South Africa … and not only because “we accept that Khayelitsha exists”.

Picture the scene: We are sitting in a lecture hall at a great South African university. We are listening to respected leaders from the academic, legal and business worlds calmly discuss the silent coup that we all believe has taken place in our country.

GuptasThe stories of multi-million rand bribes, hundreds of leaked emails and free holidays in Dubai all lead to a foreign (possibly naturalised) family, which is widely accepted to have bought the state.

They are not puppeteers, we are told, they are brokers of corruption and favours for the elite. They are the fixers and the can-do guys at the top of the pile in a neat system where the patron need not shop around, or take too many risks.

Normalising madness indeed!

 

 

New classics infused with ancient African tradition

Warm up: young musicians from Kronendal Music Academy in Hout Bay got the audience started

A Nigerian Kora player, a South African composer, a Kenyan master of ceremonies and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille were among musicians, VIPs and invited guests gathered at Iziko Museum in Cape Town to listen to “new classics” in celebration of the 54th anniversary of Africa Day on Thursday.

After being warmed up by a few jazzy numbers played by young musicians from Kronendal Music Academy in Hout Bay, which features youngsters from the community of Imizamo Yethu informal settlement and Hangberg, the audience was moved to seats under a collection of whale casts and skeletons in Iziko’s “whale well”, for the main show.

In the whale well: Could have been creepy …

A few jokes were made about this Jonah-esque setting before the audience was treated to a varied and moving selection of music, both ancient and brand new. Soon no one even noticed the enormous skeletons suspended above.

The programme included world premieres of new compositions by African classical music composers Tunde Jegede, from Nigeria, and South Africa’s Bongani Ndodana-Breen. The new, challenging scores were performed enthusiastically and elegantly by the Africa Arts Ensemble Noir, a chamber orchestra of 15 players from Cape Town with soprano soloist Amanda Osorio.

The showcase of classical music infused with ancient African tradition was the culmination of a series of concerts and public dialogues presented by Africa Arts. The series, titled Africa Connections, was aimed at fostering a new understanding of Africa and breaking down cultural paradigms about classical music.

Africa Connections has allowed audiences at a variety of venues in Cape Town to engage with Jegede and Ndodana-Breen on the subject of how their African roots and the continent’s classical traditions have impacted their work as modern composers.

Ndodana-Breen said on Friday that the Africa Day concert was also about re-imagining how we look at African creative expression.

Amanda Osorio and Bongani Ndodana-Breen

“We need to go beyond the stereotype of what African music is, locked in the ‘tourist curio’ realm of drums,” he said.

Soprano Osorio, who is also co-executive director of Africa Arts, said she was thrilled about the response to the organisation’s collaboration with the office of the premier of the Western Cape Government and Iziko Museums.

She said: “Africa Arts was very honoured that we could enable two African premieres and commission two world premieres with talented African classical music composers, and that the audience gave such a favourable reception.”

She said the event showed that there was a hunger in Africa for classical music experiences that showcased the talent on the continent and celebrated inclusivity in the arts scene.

Ndodana-Breen added: “Africa has ancient traditions, as we saw in Tunde Jegede playing the Kora but also it has modern artistic expression just like Europe or Asia.

“Yesterday’s concert could have been a concert of new music in London or New York. It had a modern cosmopolitan but African feel to it.”

 

On May 22:

Classical music infused with ancient African tradition

In honour of Africa Month, Capetonians will this week get the rare opportunity to engage with two internationally-renowned classical composers and hear how their African roots and the continent’s classical traditions have impacted their work as modern composers.

Africa Connections, a series of concerts and public dialogues, will showcase the classical music journey from ancient African kingdoms, such as Mali in the 12th century, to today. Presented by Africa Arts, the series is aimed at fostering a new understanding of Africa and breaking down cultural paradigms about classical music.

Africa Arts Group is a registered non-profit organisation that produces “innovative opera and classical music projects that celebrate the rich and diverse creative talent of South African artists”.

The concerts feature music by Nigerian kora master and composer Tunde Jegede, pictured left, and South African composer Bongani Ndodana-Breen, internationally renowned African musicians who have infused Western music with African traditions. The composers have received international acclaim for works ranging from opera and chamber to symphonic music that are influenced by classical African cultures.

As a composer, Jegede has worked with major orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia and the London Mozart Players. Over the years, he has kept his creative diversity intact by working closely with singers, vocalists and spoken-word artists from a wide range of traditions, including opera, pop, R ‘n B, reggae, hip hop and jazz.

His own jazz ensemble, The Jazz Griots, was created to explore the connections between African and African diasporic forms of music and, in 1995, the BBC produced a television documentary, Africa: Remember, about his music.

South African composer Ndodana-Breen’s music is a blend of African and classical styles and reflects on various scenes from his native Xhosa culture.

He has received commissions from across the globe. According to The New York Times, his “delicately made music – airy, spacious, terribly complex but never convoluted – has a lot to teach the Western wizards of metric modulation and layered rhythms about grace and balance”.

On Tuesday, May 23, the Institute for the Creative Arts at the University of Cape Town will present a rare opportunity to hear Jegede perform the kora, the West African harp-lute. The event will include a discussion and Q and A session with Jegede and Ndodana-Breen, who will be exploring African classical traditions and how they have impacted their compositions as modern composers.

On Wednesday, Jegede will perform his original African-infused music with some of Cape Town’s leading jazz musicians at Harringtons Cocktail Lounge on Harrington Street in the East City.

The series culminates with a gala event on Thursday, featuring world premieres of two new works by Jegede and Ndodana-Breen played by Africa Arts Ensemble Noir, a chamber orchestra of 15 players from Cape Town with the soprano soloist Amanda Osorio.

The event, commemorating Africa Day, will also showcase young talent from Kronendal Music Academy in Hout Bay, featuring young musicians from the community of Imizamo Yethu informal settlement and Hangberg. The young musicians will entertain invited guests with lighter, popular African music.

The event will be streamed live at www.africaarts.co.za at 7pm on the day and recorded for a later radio broadcast.

Africa Connections is an Africa Month initiative curated by Africa Arts and presented in collaboration with the Western Cape Government, Iziko Museums of South Africa and the Institute for Creative Arts at UCT.

In addition to the live events, Africa Arts, in partnership with the Western Cape Government, will launch Africa Connections, a commemorative publication. The publication, to be launched at Iziko on Africa Day, May 25, is described as “highlighting the bonds between the Cape and the rest of the continent”.

More info http://www.africaarts.co.za/events

 

Musical feast at Durban’s beachfront festival

Durbanites look set to get a lot more than “what is needed” this weekend, May 26-28, when a star-studded line-up from around the world plays on two stages at the third annual Zakifo Music Festival at Blue Lagoon Beach.

Ray Phiri

“Sakifo means what is needed in Creole,” says Jerome Galabert, one of the event’s co founders.

Galabert, who owns Sakifo Musik Festival in Reunion Island as well as Reunion Electronic Groove, Francofolies and Ioma, added: “With Zakifo Durban our intention is the same.”

The organisers of the Durban festival describe the line-up of 22 acts from as far afield as the UK, Jamaica, Niger, Congo and Lesotho as “one of the most multi-genre global music line-ups ever gathered together in one festival programme”.

Damian ‘JR Gong’ Marley

Including a wide galaxy of stars from Damian “JR Gong” Marley, the son of the original Marley, to a number of South African favourites such as Thandiswa Mazwai, Ray Phiri and The Soil and Congolese-Belgian act Baloji, to Tuareg musician-activist Bombino and Ghana’s Jojo Abot, this festival promises a multi-cultural multi-genre feast.

The festival, from May 26-28, will take place on Durban’s promenade, with two stages, a cultural area, food carts and stalls, craft beer bars, local traders and interactive installations and art exhibits. The backdrop will be provided by crashing waves.

Zakifo, which was was started by Galabert, Sipho Sithole and Andy Davis, is part of a music festival circuit in Southern Africa that takes place over three weeks. Other events on the circuit are Sakifo festival in Reunion, Maputo’s Azgo festival, the Bassline Africa Day concert in Johannesburg and Swaziland’s Bushfire festival.

Award-winning South African a capella group The Soil

Sithole, festival co-founder and owner of Native Rhythms, said: “Zakifo is a destination festival, a people-to-people encounter … We guarantee you that over the years this festival will become part of travellers’ annual calendar coming from all over the world.”

Zakifo is hosted with support from the Department of Arts and Culture, East Coast Radio, Air Austral, eThekwini Municipality and Durban Tourism.

Tickets are available at Computicket.

Artists given licence to disrupt (as if they needed it)

2017 looks like the year disruption will come full circle at Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival, from June 29 to July 9. Last year’s call for proposals urged, challenged, prodded and provoked the original disruptors – artists – to shake things up a bit. We have just a few weeks to wait to see how they responded.

Urging dare devils and disruptors to enter their work for the 2017 festival, incoming executive producer Ashraf Johaardien said last year: “We want to examine how the arts challenges mainstream ways of thinking, its responses to disruptions to the status quo, as well as how it disrupts conventional artistic boundaries and conventions to create new artistic territories.”

‘Do more than think outside of the box … throw away the box…’

Johaardien said he hoped artists would “do more than think outside of the box” when responding to the theme, Art and Disruption.

“For me, this theme asks artists to throw away the box completely. Airbnb has revolutionised travel, Uber has reshaped transport and Netflix has changed the way we digest television. I am hoping we see submissions that do the same for the arts.”

Sounds like a challenge that the bad boys and girls of the arts world would have found irresistible. Roll on June 29!

But before I have a look at this year’s schedule let me take a look back at some of my (kinda disruptive) favourites from the National Arts Festival of 2016:

An ever-speeding descent into madness. Sound familiar?

AnimalFarmAn interpretation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm set in the modern South African context left audiences at the 2016 National Arts Festival struggling for air as they laughed and winced their way through an orgy of greed and corruption.

The show pulls no punches as it documents an ever-speeding descent into madness when the liberated become the oppressors. Hints that this ruling class at war with itself references recent goings on in Parliament in Cape Town builds more and more obviously until we have no doubt about whose “fire pool” we are splashing about in.

One can’t help thinking that some people really do set themselves up to be made fun of. This show capitalises cleverly on South Africa’s surplus of excellent material for satire.

This adaptation was originally created to help South African high school children better understand Animal Farm, a school set work, which should explain why it might, in the words of director Neil Coppen, “sometimes feel a bit 101 to people who are more political”.

Animal_Farm_-_1st_editionLeaving little room for misinterpretation didn’t come across as dumbing down at all, though. Stating what might be obvious to some is brave in a world where things are intentionally kept a bit vague so as to keep all options open.

The cast of five black women morph in and out of masculine and feminine roles and gender often seems to disappear. There are, however, moments when the audience is reminded of the overwhelming masculinity of most of our real-life power players.

The tempo and suspense builds to a crescendo, with all of us hanging to know what happens next…

The story behind the story: also deliciously demented

In her new play, In Bocca Al Lupo, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Jemma Khan takes a slight detour from the delicious and demented make-believe world we know her for and tells us a little about her life, and it turns out to be quite delicious and demented too.

Kahn is best known for her two previous shows, the international cult hit The Epicene Butcher and last year’s sellout success, We Didn’t Come To Hell For The Croissants.

She plays all characters in In Bocca Al Lupo herself, employing various cunning tricks and technologies that make it feel like we are watching her interact with others.

JemmaKahnAfter finishing her degree, Kahn tells us, she decided not to follow the well-trodden path of a drama graduate (along the lines of get degree, get agent, develop eating disorder, become estate agent). She has the audience in stitches as she paints a very funny and somewhat scandalous picture of a few horrible, if interesting, years travelling the world and trying to work out what she was going to do with her life.

Bocca Al Lupo translates to Into the mouth of the wolf, which she tells us Italians use as a good luck phrase much the same way as English speakers say Break a leg. Into the mouth of the wolf sounds about right as a description of her time in Japan and Ireland.

If her life is not, in fact, filled with lovable and loving people, she does a very good job of making it look like it is. With the exception of the Speed-guzzling, posh-hating Irish boyfriend, who sounds like he could have done with a good telling off and probably a scrub, her characters are all damn near adorable. Who wouldn’t like a granma called Fufu who helps fund your dreams.

The play has its sad moments (whose life doesn’t?), but mostly this beautifully illustrated tale has us laughing our way around the world. Her use of Kamishibai, a form of Japanese street theatre where a sequence of images are displayed in a frame to help tell stories, is as slick as it is visually pleasing.

A great storyteller telling a great story!

https://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/

 

 

 

 

Back by popular demand: #FeesMustFall

front-sizwesandisile-back-ameera-conrad-oarabile-ditsele-tankiso-mamabolo-cleo-raatus-sihle-mnqwazana-thando-mangcu-in-the-fall-pic-by-oscar-o-ryan

The relevance of this show is magnified by the intimacy the performers have with the stories. Pic Paul O’Ryan

Back by popular demand! The Fall will be showing at Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from June 8 to 24.

Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Research Chair of Studies in Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University, wrote of The Fall: “With all the images of violence in the media, it can be easy to lose sight of what sustains the journey that began with Rhodes. The Fall takes back the narrative and invites the audience to look beyond the headlines and to see the real human stories. It is a powerfully acted play, a profoundly complex and moving portrait of students’ struggle to free themselves from the burden of the historical legacy they inherited.”

and we said …

#FeesMustFall, #FindTheMoney, October 2016:

What a pity that before assembling a team to look into the cost of higher education – a team that, incidentally, looks better suited to dealing with international espionage – President Jacob Zuma didn’t spend some time this week as a member of an audience at the Baxter Theatre marveling at our country’s young people.

In watching The Fall: All Rhodes Lead To Decolonisation he could have heard firsthand the informed and eloquent arguments of a diverse group of recent UCT graduates who were involved in last year’s seminal #RhodesMustFall protests.

Perhaps we can still hope that one or more of his newly assembled “funding for fees” team – which oddly includes the minister of state security and the minister of defence and military veterans, but excludes the minister of finance – will see the show. It is on until October 29 and seems quite likely to move somewhere else after that.

The relevance of watching this production while universities around the country are exploding with anger and frustration is magnified by the obvious intimacy the performers have with the stories.

The frank, collaborative piece of workshop theatre was devised by the cast, with facilitation from Clare Stopford. Oarabile Ditsele, Tankiso Mamabolo, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Sihle Mnqwazana, Cleo Raatus, Ameera Conrad and Thando Mangcu draw on their own experiences, making for a richly textured depiction of the issues and ideologies present in the movement. The production is directed by Conrad and Mangcu.

oarabile-ditsele-ameera-conrad-sizwesandisile-mnisi-tankiso-mamabolo-cleo-raatus-sihle-mnqwazana-of-the-fall-pic-by-oscar-o-ryan

The Fall: a frank, collaborative piece of workshop theatre devised by the cast. Pic: Oscar O’ Ryan

The subject matter is expanded beyond statues and fees, syllabi and social classifications. Discussions of race, class and gender, patriarchy and sexism are all expanded to what feels like the edges and beyond.

A surprising and subtly handled storyline focuses around Cleo, who identifies outside of the normative gender labels. This narrative relating a personal non-binary experience in a hetero-normative landscape also provokes a challenge to media bias.

Where are all the queer bodies, the trans bodies, Cleo asks. Why aren’t they represented in history or media coverage? After all, no one doubts that they turn up when they are needed, “manning” the barricades when there is a fight to be fought.

The absurdity of racism is laid bare in ways that frequently make the audience wince. Humour provides great (if occasional) relief.

We smile a rather grim smile as we hear about the moment when, as the statue of Cecil John Rhodes is finally being removed, it dangles above the plinth for a moment “as if deciding whether to go, or to fall and crush the black bodies beneath it”.

As much as that moment of removal was invested with much meaning, a moment when, in one performer’s words, the “ancestors’ dignity was restored” it was just a moment, a moment that has passed. The play goes on to unpack how this symbolic moment extended into a series of other pivotal moments.

Moments when dignity is restored are few; much more often it is the opposite.

In one excruciating moment the audience is given some insight into the horror of proving you are poor enough to be given a loan to help with fees. Here, all of the family’s shame must be laid out for all to see, often over and over.

The shame of association is piled on some of us when one of the students talks about a white classmate saying that black people were better suited to working outdoors because of the pigment in their skin. White people, according to this theory, needed to remain indoors … running things, you know, governing and so on.

Those familiar with the preference for shortening “tricky” names turned scarlet when we were told to: “Learn my name!” A second lash of shame was delivered with “like I have learned the names of Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky”.

2PoliceChain 1PoliceChainAnd so the struggles – long and short, big and small – continue. #RhodesMustFall, #OutsourcingMustFall, #BladeMustFall, #FeesMustFall.

At the heart of it all lies South Africa’s stalled transformation process. We are left feeling that money must be found to fund this part of decolonisation.

Maybe there is some money in the defence budget? Extra cash in the state security system’s coffers?

Aah I see now … maybe the ministers of state security and defence and military veterans might be able to help after all.