Press: Nadia Davids’ What Remains in Cape Town premiere hot off the NAF

June 28, 2017


What Remains, the new play from multiple award-winning writer Nadia Davids, comes to Cape Town hot off its premiere at the main programme of the National Arts Festival. It will be performed from 6 to 12 July at Hiddingh Hall, Orange Street, Cape Town following its run in Grahamstown at Graeme College from 29 June to 1 July.


Davids’ first new play on African soil in nine years, What Remains is created by a theatrical dream team, with direction by Jay Pather and starring Denise Newman, Faniswa Yisa, Shaun Oelf and Buhle Ngaba. Original choreography is by Jay Pather.


On a still, cool day in the east of a city by the sea, three sounds only: a bulldozer’s engine, a forgotten song, a canon that tells the time. Behind the bulldozer, a sign: Luxury Mall Coming Soon. As the vehicle moves in to clear ground, it strikes at something unexpected…


What Remains is a captivating fusion of text, dance and movement to tell a story about an unexpected uncovering of a slave burial ground in Cape Town, the archaeological dig that follows and a city haunted by the memory of slavery. When the bones emerge from the ground everyone in the city - slave decedents, archaeologists, citizens, property developers - are forced to reckon with a history sometimes remembered, sometimes forgotten.


What Remains is a journey through memory and magic, of the uncanny and the known, between waking and dreaming, and of paintings and protests.  Four figures - The Archaeologist, The Healer, The Dancer and The Student  - move between bones and books, archives and madness, as they try to reconcile the past with the now.


“This is a play about history, memory, magic and the now,” says Davids. “Slavery in the Cape is a history full of silence and unresolved sorrow. And unresolved histories have a way of making themselves known. It is a play about how history erupts and disrupts the present.”


“I’ve always admired Jay Pather’s work; the seamless, yet provocative way he forges connections and relationships between landscapes, the body, place and agency.  I am thrilled that he agreed to collaborate on this text-based play, to bring it to life in his signature style and create a truly unique piece of theatre. It’s a privilege too, to see the work performed by Denise Newman, Faniswa Yisa, Buhle Ngaba and Shaun Oelf. They are all incredible, captivating performers who work deeply and sensitively with the material.


Says Pather, “Nadia Davids’ writing vividly transports us through multiple times and spaces, capturing the vertigo that characterises living in South Africa today. This ebb and flow of memory, moving back and forth from the aching, re-surging past and the turbulent present allows us a way to look at the complexity of the modern moment with fresh lenses. The elegance, weight and precision of the text reads like a choreography. In this sense I thrived on the endless possibilities for imagery, and kinetic connections. With a cast that brings a richness of talent, experience, emotional depth as well as political sophistication, this fast paced and complex work was a pleasure and a privilege to direct.”


What Remains will be performed from 6 to 12 July at 8pm (with a matinee on Saturday 8th July at 2pm and a performance on Sunday 9 July at 6pm) at Hiddingh Hall, Orange Street Cape Town. Limited seating, booking is essential. Ample parking is available next to the venue.


Age advisory 10 years +

Tickets cost R120 and can be booked at Webtickets


The production will run at the National Arts Festival where it will play at Graeme College from the 29 June to 1 July.

This work was made possible by the generous support of the Leverhulme Trust.

Nadia Davids acknowledges and appreciates the support of the Queen Mary University of London, University of Cape Town Drama Department during the development of the production.

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