Acclaimed Ruth First Play Comes to Artscape
After playing to standing ovations and sold-out houses at the 2016 National Arts Festival, RUTH FIRST: 117 DAYS comes to the Artscape Arena for 8 performances from 31 July - 4 August. This production is presented as part of Artscape's 12th annual Women's and Humanities Festival in celebration of Women's Month.
As we celebrate the incredible contribution women have made and continue to make in South Africa it only seems fitting that we celebrate the life of one of South Africa's most notable struggle-icons, Ruth First. Award-winning author, Lauren Beukes described First as "the stylish revolutionary. Ruth adored Italian shoes, expensive perfumes, beautiful clothes and gourmet cuisine. But her first loves were political activism, truth and justice."
RUTH FIRST: 117 DAYS dramatises the harrowing, real-life chronicle of First's arrest, isolation and abuse at the hands of apartheid regime interrogators.
First was a journalist, academic and political activist during the height of the apartheid era who was detained, persecuted, exiled and eventually assassinated for her activism and beliefs. Married to fellow communist and anti-apartheid activist, Joe Slovo, she served on the drafting committee of the Freedom Charter.
On 9 August 1963, First was arrested and kept in solitary confinement for 117 days under the notorious 90-day clause becoming the first white woman to be arrested under this act. Her account of her period in detention was published in her 1965 book 117 Days.
The play is an intense representation of the psychology of solitary confinement and interrogation - the humiliation of being locked away, the slow winding of the days, the effects of loneliness and sensory deprivation that almost drove First to the brink. RUTH FIRST: 117 DAYS is at the same time an inspiring portrayal of the human spirit's ability to transcend the most brutal oppression.
The production stars Jackie Rens as Ruth First. Ms Rens was last seen in Cape Town in David Hare's probing drama The Vertical Hour at Theatre on the Bay in 2014. Ms Rens also picked up a Best Actress nomination for her performance in The Vertical Hour at the Naledi Awards. The press at the National Arts Festival in 2016 praised Ms Rens for her tour-de-force performance and noted her striking physical resemblances to Ruth First.
Award-winning composer and musical director, Charl-Johan Lingenfelder has created an evocative, haunting soundscape that underscores the entire production. Renowned radio personality, John Maytham, in his review of the production praised Lingenfelder's score "The sound, by Charl Johan Lingenfelder, is especially notable. Cell doors clanging shut; water dripping; a typewriter clacking as First describes key elements of her history. They all add to the sense of oppressive brutality and mental torture."
The production marks the directorial debut of actor/designer Marcel Meyer, who is also responsible for the set and costume design. Meyer has been nominated for, and won, several national and international awards for his designs and has built a reputation for his performances in plays by Tennessee Williams and William Shakespeare.
Veteran director/designer, Fred Abrahamse and award-winning lighting designer, Faheem Bardien will collaborate on the lighting design.
As South Africa and the world celebrates Madiba's legacy in his centennial year Ruth First's story shines another fascinating light on Madiba's narrative. First and Mandela met in the early 1940s, while they were students at Wits, and became life-long friends and comrades. First was the only woman present at the now famous Rivonia meetings. In his memoir, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela writes: "Ruth had an outgoing personality and was a gifted writer. She was a forceful and engaging woman and her death [by letter bomb] revealed the extent of the state's cruelty in combating our struggle."
ARTSCAPE in association with ABRAHAMSE & MEYER PRODUCTIONS presents JACKIE RENS as Ruth First in
RUTH FIRST: 117 DAYS
Based on the book by RUTH FIRST
ADAPTATION Fred Abrahamse & Marcel Meyer
DIRECTOR & DESIGNER Marcel Meyer
LIGHTING DESIGNER Fred Abrahamse & Faheem Bardien
COMPOSER Charl-Johan Lingenfelder
DURATION: 1hr 15min (no interval)
Booking at Computicket or Artscape-Dial-A-Seat: Ticket Price R150 or R40 for Scholars. 10% discount for groups of 10 or more, pensioners and students with a valid student card.