March 3, 2021

The Fall

On November 2nd I attended the play The Fall. This play was very moving and informative about the social issues in South Africa. The play was about students of the University of  Cape Town and how colonization has impacted their lives. The statue of Cecil Rhodes was a symbol at the center of campus that stood for colonization, and this statue was the start of decolonizing the university and the entire education system of South Africa. The play began with the actors singing and performing asides one by one as the rest of the actors/students sung in the background. In each of their asides, the actors narrated what happened in March 2015. The play then shifted to where the students were all in a classroom determining what should be done about the colonization. The play presented a variety of perspectives on how the students felt. There were students who were so angry that they did not want to be rational. They wanted to retaliate with violence and by physically tearing the Rhodes statue with a hammer. Some students wanted to be rational and present that they request to have the statue removed. This play begins with race and colonized education systems, but it expands into so much more. In the midst of, the student discussion we see the struggle of women in South Africa to have their voices heard through Black Feminism. We also see the pride of the male and his need to maintain the patriarchal culture he was raised with. The play manages to go even deeper and touches on the internal racism among blacks. We see the biracial students outcast by their peers and how hurtful this is to them. The play then touches on sexuality and religion and what its like to be homosexual and Muslim in South Africa. At the end of the play, it is made clear that this was only the beginning of the struggle to change South Africa. The play was very entertaining, and many people in the audience looked entertained. There were jokes, singing, and dancing, and the actors were great performers. However, I couldn’t help but wonder if all the people in the audience actually saw past the dancing, jokes, and singing and understood the pain behind it all. The pain of being ostracized in your own country.

The University of Cape Town reminds me of Harlem Duet. The university is in the capital of South Africa where people of color live. It becomes a place where whiteness is brought into the story and praised. There isn’t any representation of the African students only depictions of colonizers. Similarly, in Harlem Duet Columbia University is where whiteness is introduced into the present day of the play. The character Othello is the only black professor and his colleagues are white. The difference between the two plays is that the students of the University of Cape Town fought to have their voices heard and didn’t hide their blackness. Othello, on the other hand, was ashamed of his blackness and chose to change himself to fit in with his white colleagues. He was ashamed by his blackness while the students of The Fall were proud and fought to defend their identities as black students. The Fall also connects to Shakespeare’s Othello. In this case, it’s the lighter skinned students that are the moors of the play. When the biracial students are fighting for the beliefs of the other students, they’re accepted. However, when they’re fighting for the beliefs that are contrary to the other students, they are outcast, and their blackness is called into question. Overall, The Fall was an amazing and bold play that addresses that social issues of South Africa.

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