The South African socio-political environment is currently going through a very difficult phase, with the student protests at the forefront. We’ve heard and read about the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements and we’ve all had something to say about them. There is so much noise, too many opinions, and the media is documenting every aspect of the movement… or so I thought.
Until I saw the Baxter Theatre’s latest production, The Fall, I didn’t realise that I have been listening to everyone’s view except for the people who are right at the heart of the movement; the students. The Fall is not only a fresh in-your-face piece of theatre, it is a command for attention and a plea for support. The piece is written by eight recent graduates from the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) drama school and performed by seven of them, with two also taking the director’s seat.
The vibrant young actors’ energy captivates the audience as they each share their experiences as people of colour during the #RhodesMustFall and subsequent movements. They take us back to how it all started – when the removal of the statue of 19th century imperialist, Cecil Rhodes, was the target of the student’s first attempt at decolonisation. Finally, we get to be a part of the conversation that sparked what some media reports have described as the continuation of the 1976 student uprising.
In a dark set covered with brush strokes of white paint and three multipurpose tables, they give vivid details of the conversations and arguments that took place leading to the famous march to Parliament. As the students detail, in turn, their motives for actively supporting the #FeesMustFall movement, the overwhelming feeling is one of sadness.
Did you ever wonder what happens when the students reconvene after each failed attempt to get their voices heard? The Fall reveals a side of the movement we might never have considered; the pressure-induced conflicts amongst the students themselves. I confess that it had not dawned on me that these movements had raised awareness of other social issues such as patriarchy, homophobia and institutionalised racism.
Song and dance come as a somewhat entertaining relief from the emotion-evoking script. The touches of humour here and there coupled with the cast’s animated expressions save The Fall from being an entirely sad and angry piece. Watching The Fall feels like sitting in a fruitful lecture of a subject that you have been flunking for a very long time. This is history told as it happens.
The Fall runs from 12 September to 21 September at Baxter Theatre Golden Arrow Studio. There is an age restriction of 16 years.