Acclaimed playwright Nadia Davids’ latest play, Hold Still, premieres at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, for a limited season, from 13 to 30 October 2021, at 7pm and matinees at 2.30pm.
Mdu Kweyama directs the four-hander which stars Lionel Newton, Mojisola Adebayo, Tailyn Ramsamy and Braeden Buys. The creative team comprises Patrick Curtis (set design), Mannie Manim (lighting design), Robert Jeffery (composition and sound design) and Marisa Steenkamp (costumes).
Hold Still tells the story of a family shaped by different generational traumas, who must confront their own histories to get through a single, life-changing night. The multi-themed play focuses on a long-term marriage and through it, examines the limits of middle-class empathy and the complexities of an inter-racial, intra-cultural family living with the weight of catastrophic political histories.
“For the last several years I’ve been struggling with what it means to be a ‘good person’, with what it means to be a responsible, active citizen and with how ordinary people are expected to respond to these catastrophic times,” says Davids. “Hold Still comes out of an on-going argument I’ve been having with myself about my own limitations in this regard, about wanting safety in an unsafe world, about the impulse to withdraw when what’s needed is engagement.”
Set against a contemporary cosmopolitan London, rife with xenophobia, the fear of strangeness and the stranger is a steady theme throughout the play. Rosa and Ben Feigel (played by Adebayo and Newton) are a progressive, dynamic, North London couple. She’s the daughter of South African exiles, he’s the son of a man who escaped on Kindertransport. Their teenage son Oliver (Buys) - full of a political conviction his parents have encouraged - decides to hide a vulnerable person, his best friend and an asylum-seeking teenager (Ramsamy), in their home. As the night unfolds, Rosa and Ben must grapple with what this reveals about their marriage and how it tests their image of themselves.
The play’s genesis lies in Davids’ years in London when the refugee crisis hit, and Brexit was gaining traction. She was deeply moved by stories of ordinary people extending themselves to support refugees. She started to think about all the histories of immigration that London contained and how her own family history was shaped by movement - both enforced and chosen.
She explains, “A story began to form for me about a couple who prided themselves on their left-wing principles, whose own families had endured unspeakable histories of political and racist trauma - South African apartheid and the Jewish holocaust - who were themselves the children of refugees, of exiles, of people who had to hide in order to escape - and I began to wonder, how would they respond if they discovered a refugee in their home? Would it trigger courage or fear in them?”
Davids is a writer, theatre-maker and academic. Her plays At Her Feet, Cissie and What Remains, have been staged locally and internationally and between them have garnered 12 Fleur du Cap awards and nominations. She is widely published in South Africa and her work has appeared in the LA Review of Books, BBC and CNN. She an Associate Professor at UCT and the President of PEN South Africa.
Kweyama is a theatre director and the artistic director and curator of the Baxter’s Zabalaza Theatre Festival. In 2019 he directed the Pulitzer prize-winning Edward Albee’s, The Goat or, who is Sylvia? which received four Fleur du Cap nominations including Best Director and Best Production. He also directed Reza de Wet’s Missing and in 2016 he won the Fleur du Cap Rosalie van der Gucht award for New Directors.
London-born Adebayo is a playwright, performer, director, producer, workshop facilitator and lecturer. She is a specialist in Theatre of the Oppressed, having worked in theatre, radio and television, on four continents, over the past 25 years and performing in over 50 productions. She has written, devised and directed over 30 plays and returns to South Africa after seven years to take on the role of Rosa.
Newton is a multi-award-winning actor who has performed in has performed in an impressive number of theatre productions and films, which include Jump The Gun (for which he won The All African M-Net award for Best Lead Actor) and Triomf (for which he won The Best Leading Actor at the Tarifa Film Festival in Spain), Country of my Skull, Forgiveness, Jozi and Sleepers Wake. He last performed at The Baxter in The Goat or, who is Sylvia?
Ramsamy is a BA (Honours) UCT graduate in Theatre and Performance who performed in Macbeth, Richard III and PAN. Newcomer Buys graduated from The Stage Performing Arts Studio in 2020 and was seen in the musical Hairspray.
Hold Still is made possible through the support of the City of Cape Town and the Rolf Stephan Nussbaum Foundation. Performances are limited to 50 percent capacity as regulated by lockdown Level 2 restrictions, with all COVID-19 protocols in place and to be observed. These include the availability of hand sanitisers, tracking and tracing recorded, temperature checks, mandatory wearing of masks and practicing of physical distancing. Audience members are advised to arrive at least 30 minutes before the start of the performance to avoid delays.
Hold Still runs at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from 13 to 30 October 2021, at 7pm and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Ticket prices range from R125 (Early Bird Special), R150 (Mondays to Wednesdays and matinees) R190 (Thursdays to Saturdays).
Booking is through Webtickets online at www.webtickets.co.za/baxtertheatre or at Pick n Pay stores. For discounted school or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities, contact Carmen Kearns on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Leon van Zyl at email@example.com.