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  • Writer's pictureRuth First Trust

Were we really born free?

Born Free? was on stage in early May at the Joburg Theatre as part of the FEDA (Festival of Excellence in Dramatic Arts). The festival aims to showcase outstanding Drama Departments of Gauteng schools, and prides itself on encouraging young theatre practitioners to take risks and create cutting edge work while performing on the professional stage.

Four of our Ruthies participated in the production which was awarded Best Satire and Best Newcomers' Award, and received nominations for Best Director and Best Comic Performance (Francesca Martis). The play was also staged at school as part of the annual production, “Showcase, an extravaganza of drama, dance and music”. At the EADS (Edenvale Acting and Dramatic Society) festival, the adjudicators said the script would be relevant for the next twenty years and it won awards for Best Supporting Actress (Francesca Martis), Best Lighting, Best Backstage, Best Original Script and Most Promising Production!

A workshopped piece, it was written by the cast and crew themselves. The girls described it as ‘an interactive iterative process’ whereby they created their own characters and were encouraged to improvise and ‘ad lib’ during the performance. The six colour characters each represented an issue or something the youth find wrong with South Africa, including corruption, racism, privilege, rape, stigma, education and ambition. Humour was used throughout the production as a quality of being South African, acknowledging that this is what we do as a nation when things go wrong, we make fun of and laugh at the situation.

Reflecting on their experience, our girls said: "My role as Green was based on my mother’s experience at Home Affairs, but we could all relate to this scene. (Natasha Mwilambwe)"

Marlene Angwafor was involved in script writing and backstage soundscapes during the performance. She also wrote the poem for Green's scene:

Corruption, corruption, corruption

We have been silent for too long

It is now a profession

It is spreading like an infection

Needs instant cure and medication

It works like a termite

We have been silent for too long.

Blue, (Francesca Martis) brought humour to her multiple roles and relished the energy and adrenalin of performance, as well as the playful manner in which the production was created. The sense of belonging to a close knit and trusted team was also a stand out feature for her. Francesca won Best Supporting Actress at the EADS festival.

Yellow (Tshaamano Mabuba) reflected: “We were not just reading off some script, we were actually telling our own South Africa stories, and it was amazing how the audience related to these. As Yellow, my message was that it’s time for South Africa to let go of its grudges and to reconcile: just like my colour to be bright and happy again.”

Francesca Martis (Blue), Tshaamano Mabuba (Yellow), Natasha Mwilambwe (Green) and Marlene Angwafor (bottom right) are pictured above with the cast and crew of Born Free?

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