The Fall

Aug 20 2017 | By More

★★★★★    Singing truth to power

Assembly Hall (Venue 35): Thurs 3 – Sun 27 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Fall, the Baxter Theatre centre at The University of Cape Town’s production at the Assembly Hall, is a fascinating and troubling work, made simultaneously joyous by an outstanding ensemble.

In a storyline made even more horribly relevant by recent events in Charlottesville, it begins with the students at the university’s efforts to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes from campus in 2015. The removal of the statue, however, simply reveals more fault lines caused by institutional racism, sexism and the oppression of the LGBT community.

The cast of The Fall. Pic: Fahiem Stellenboom

This is not nearly as heavy or worthy as it sounds, as it is performed with a fire and drive rarely seen, with music and movement that is alternately defiant, mournful or simply joyful.

There are some outstanding individual performances – the angry self-determination of Ameera Conrad’s character, Zandile Madliwa’s depiction of someone struggling with a burden beyond her years, the non-binary student frustrated with others’ lack of respect played by Cleo Raatus – but it is the ensemble that is the real star.

The play was devised by the cast – those mentioned plus Oarabile Ditsele, Thando Mangcu, Sizwesandile Mnisi and Sihle Mnqwazana, with Conrad and Mangcu listed as cast curators and Clare Stopford as facilitator. It goes to show just how cohesive, convincing and compelling such devised docudrama pieces can be.

The factionalism provoked after the toppling of the statue is not only readily familiar to anyone who has ever dabbled in progressive causes (as are the debates over language and near-obsession with the process of that debate) but mirrors the post-colonial situation itself in so many parts of the world. Occupying powers leave after yoking together disparate peoples in artificially created states – often having deliberately set those people against each other as part of their administration.

If there is hope contained here, it comes from the very way the ensemble works together. In particular, the first twenty minutes (echoed more ruefully at the end), where the music and movement gives a platform for individual performers to move out from the group, take the spotlight and return to the collective in a way that not only seems smooth and natural, but is as good a piece of performance as you are likely to see.

Each individual is a frighteningly good actor, yet the whole is more than the some of the parts. There surely cannot be a better cast at the Fringe this year.

Running time 1 hour 20 minutes (no interval)
Assembly Hall, Mound Place, EH1 2LU (Venue 35)
Thursday 3 – Sunday 27 August 2017
Daily (not Mon 14 or 21) at 6.15 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Company Facebook: @baxtertheatre
Twitter: @BaxterTheatre


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