BOXES is a social-justice theatre project devised by award-winning theatre makers Neil Coppen and Ameera Conrad, Journalist Daneel Knoetze and performers Quanita Adams and Mark Elderkin. The project draws from a range of research-based, verbatim and documentary theatre methodologies to explore a myriad of perspectives and insights into urban land justice issues occurring across city of Cape Town.
The plays central narrative focuses around a young Cape Town couple: Kaye (Quanita Adams) and Lawrence (Mark Elderkin) who have recently moved into the inner-city and find their preparations for a house-warming dinner, derailed when Lawrence announces that he has accepted a job offer to design a state-of-the art residential development in lower Woodstock. When it is discovered that local residents will be evicted from their neighbourhood to make room for the development, Kaye begins to probe the repercussions of her partner’s latest venture. As Kaye and Lawrence battle it out, we learn of Kaye’s interactions with her Aunt Sumaya in the Bo Kaap, who due to rising rates is having to sell up her family home and has been inspired to return to her activist roots.
As Kaye and Lawrence attempt to arrive at some sort of a resolve before the arrival of their dinner guests, audiences encounter a myriad of characters including property developers, politicians, residents and whistleblowers whose lives are impacted, for better or worse, by the gentrification trends sweeping across the city and suburbs. Over the course of four short scenes, BOXES probes the legacy of apartheid spatial planning and forced removals, examining notions of ‘development’ and ‘progress’, by interrogating the question: Who is really benefitting from all this so-called progress?
BOXES forms part of a wider Open Society Foundation project which connects South African investigative journalists with theatre makers and artists. The Open Society foundation funded the project which sees creatives interpret the work of investigative journalists with the hope that alternative dissemination strategies would enable these narratives to reach wider audiences in the lead up to the 2019 South African elections.
The play is produced by Empatheatre, a company founded by Neil Coppen, Mpume Mthombeni and Dylan McGarry. Empatheatre has been responsible for launching several social-justice theatrical projects over the last decade including Soil & Ash (focusing on rural communities facing pressure from coal-mining companies), Ulwembu (street-level Drug addiction and harm reduction advocacy), The Last Country (female migration stories) and Lalela ulwandle (an international theatre project supporting sustainable transformative governance of the oceans). More recently the Empatheatre team has been invited to work internationally in New York, St Louis, Toronto, Fiji, Ghana and Namibia.
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