In 2015, #RhodesMustFall exploded across Twitter. Student activists were campaigning to topple the statue of Cecil Rhodes that still stood over the University of Cape Town, a sneering icon of white colonialism. Now, seven of them have collaborated with Baxter Theatre to devise a play that’s a nuanced, compelling insight into their fight.
This close-knit young group erupts onto the stage, humming with energy and resolve. As they explain, they've educated themselves enough to know that the syllabus they’re fed isn’t right: it tells Africa’s history from the perspective of European colonisers. And the problems go deeper – to fees which leave poorer black students unable to afford food, to racism on campus, to the silencing of black faculty members.
A series of tightly-scripted debates show them wrestling with these problems, as well as the internal debates over sexism and LGBTQ rights that threaten to break their group apart. Solving the legacy of apartheid and colonialism is an impossible weight to put on the shoulders of people who are barely in their twenties. Here, infectious dance sequences show that they've got the energy to make their theories real. But more ponderous, dragging group movements also show their struggle’s psychological toll.
As I write this, American white supremacists in Virginia are violently protesting the decision to remove a statue of a Confederate general. The Fall couldn’t be more topical. It captures a spirit, a cultural moment – but it's also weighty enough to remind a largely white audience that this struggle is their responsibility, too.