Review: Cold Case – Revisiting Dulcie September

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Revisiting Dulcie SeptemberIn Paris on 29 March 1988, a South African woman was shot five times from behind with a 22-calibre silenced rifle. She was 52 year old Dulcie September. Her killer has never been found.

Cold Case explores the life and death of Dulcie September without providing answers to her assassination. Instead it delivers strands of theories to provoke the audience’s thoughts.

A former teacher, Dulcie September was also a prominent anti-Apartheid activist. Imprisoned for five years and banned for a further five, she eventually moved to Europe where she became a key ANC figure.

Denise Newman brings Dulcie September – the “no-nonsense, straight talking soldier” – to life with a descriptive and emotional portrayal. As an audience member you feel the story is being told to you by a passionate September herself. We hear about September’s childhood memories, her love of dance, her time spent in prison, her life as the ANC Chief Representative in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Additionally Newman plays various roles as relations and friends of Dulcie’s, people who share their fond memories of her and emotionally express the hole left in their lives by her sudden death.

A simple yet effective set, filled with cardboard boxes, reflects the limitations of Dulcie’s life: her abusive father, the restrictions of apartheid, the four walls of her prison cell and – of course – the case file of her death, now just a pile of unsolved papers in a box.

A few comedic moments break the seriousness: in particular whenever Newman adopts an Afrikaans accent – something that has the audience laughing every time. The simple lighting is also on point, amplifying the different emotions of the story. The most effective is when the room suddenly becomes dark, five guns shots ring out and a dim light is placed on Newman who goes on to detail the events leading up to the death of Dulcie September. The screening of video excerpts played thereafter is a stark reminder that this isn’t fiction.

A well-deserved winner of the 2014 Standard Bank Ovation and 2014 Adelaide Tambo Humanitarian Awards, Cold Case: Revisiting Dulcie September is a great depiction of those who fought apartheid on an individual level, reminding us of the many ‘small’ people who were active in its abolishment, people who are often overlooked in talks of “The Struggle”, but who nonetheless are significant to our history and should be celebrated and remembered.

Lee-Anne Rodrigues

Cold Case: Revisiting Dulcie September runs at the Artscape Arena, Cape Town 6 & 7 August 2015 as part of the Artscape Women/Humanity Arts festival.

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