On Friday 11 August, The Baxter Theatre Centre’s production of The Fall was awarded the Fringe First at this year’s Scotsman Awards. Presented weekly and designed to encourage performers to bring new work to Edinburgh in the spirit of adventure and experiment, the Scotsman Fringe First Awards celebrate the best new writing on the Fringe.
The Fall is a vital and frank collaborative piece of workshop theatre devised by the original cast that took South Africa by storm when it premiered. Seven University of Cape Town Drama graduates share their experiences during the #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and subsequent student movements’ demonstrations in 2015 and 2016.
The highly acclaimed play is facilitated by Clare Stopford, curated by Ameera Conrad and Thando Mangcu, two members of the ensemble and the dynamic cast comprises Conrad, Mangcu, Oarabile Ditsele, Zandlie Madliwa, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Sihle Mnqwazana and Cleo Raatus.
On introducing the company and presenting the award Joyce McMillan, Scotsman's chief theatre critic said about The Fall, “What makes this show completely exceptional - not just its energy, not just the live footage that we see of this very recent, and indeed, continuing revolution in South African higher education, and not just the fantastic musical and movement content, which is just completely mind-blowing, beautiful - but also the density and the seriousness of the political arguments which these young people are being forced to address as such an early age.”
She was joined by a special guest, the brilliant Scottish playwright Zinnie Harris, who this year has three major productions at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Lara Foot, CEO and artistic director of Baxter explained, “On 9 April 2015, the iconic statue of Cecil John Rhodes was, once and for all, removed from the University of Cape Town campus. This was the result of tenacious and brave protests from the fallist movement, who were, and still are, driven to decolonise education in South Africa. In June of the same year, the Baxter Theatre Centre presented the work Black Dog/ Injemnyama, as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of the passing of legendary writer/director Barney Simon, co-founder of the Market Theatre. A number of the cast members in Black Dog/Injemnyama were due to graduate later that year. They were also leaders of the student protest movement. It seemed fitting to commission a work with these fine actors - who were also brave and articulate activists - in the same docudrama style as Simon's plays.
The cast of The Fall went into development and meticulously chiselled out a complex and vital text and in October 2016 the play opened!
It immediately struck a chord and caused a sensation at the Baxter Theatre, which is on the University of Cape Town campus. The play lifted a veil on the unspoken truth of so many thousands of students, their hardships, their realities; and the pain suffered by so many.
At the time of commissioning this work, I knew that it would have an effect on the community of Cape Town and South Africa at large. What I was not expecting, was how relevant this play is to the international community and that it speaks to the effects of colonialism at a global level. We are delighted to share this important work with the audiences in Edinburgh.”
William Burdett-Coutts, Director of Assembly Festival said: “We are absolutely delighted that two of Assembly’s shows have received Fringe Firsts. The Edinburgh Festival is the largest arts festival in the world and for The Fall and Enterprise to be chosen from over 2,000 shows taking part is a tremendous achievement. I am particularly proud that The Fall is one of the productions that are part of the 40th anniversary season of six shows from the Baxter Theatre."
Presented by Baxter Theatre Centre in association with Assembly Festival and Riverside Studios, the six dramas of the season are Lara Foot’s Tshepang: The Third Testament, Karoo Moose - No Fathers and The Inconvenience of Wings, The Fall, Sylvaine Strike’s Tobacco and Yael Farber’s Mies Julie returns to complete the line-up.