Socialist Worker

‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movement comes from Fringe to London

Issue No. 2574

The Fall

The Fall explores the anti-racist movement in South Africa


The Fall is an outstanding play which embodies student struggle around the world. The actors are brilliant. It won two major awards at the Edinburgh Fringe and is well worth seeing.

It’s a collaborative piece of workshop theatre devised by eight former students who were involved and affected by the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement. It started with an occupation of Bremmer House at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in March 2015.

The object of the students’ anger was the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, a governor of the Cape under British colonial rule. Rhodes is one of the symbols of the apartheid era.

His statue at the entrance to UCT was an insult to those who had opposed and fought apartheid.

More than 20 years after “liberation”, much remained unchanged.

Access to education for the vast bulk of black people is restricted due to cost. And if you were fortunate to get to college the curriculum seemed to reflect and serve the purpose of the old apartheid setup.

Institutional

The occupation at UCT soon ballooned into a discussion on blackness, feminism, institutional racism, sexuality and gender identity. This discussion soon spread everywhere.

The impact of the student action at UCT was massive. It also had an international dimension.

There are echoes of it in struggles such as the movement to get rid of the Confederate flag, statues and symbols of slavery in the US today.

At the end of 2015 the South African government announced its intention to increase student fees and this led to a national student uprising in many ways echoing the Soweto uprising of 1976.

The play’s authors concentrate on issues of decolonisation and inequality and are hugely influenced by the politics of the black conciousness movement.

They do not claim to provide any answers but see their role as documenting the students’ experiences.

There is no attempt to explain what causes injustice and inequality, nor is there any attempt to explain that these issues are systemic.

This discussion is not new. The issues raised in the play have been the basis of worldwide struggle for decades.

We need to fight the system that creates such injustice and oppression. Unfortunately the role of workers who have been centrally involved in the campus struggles of the past two years is sidelined.

Despite these points The Fall is a powerful piece of theatre.

The Fall is on at the Royal Court theatre in Sloane Square, London, until 14 October.
Tickets start at £12. Go to bit.ly/2wjF2QO

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