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Guest Blog: Diane Page On STATEMENTS AFTER AN ARREST UNDER THE IMMORALITY ACT

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The director on staging Athol Fugard's play at the Orange Tree Theatre

Guest Blog: Diane Page On STATEMENTS AFTER AN ARREST UNDER THE IMMORALITY ACT
Scarlett Brookes and Shaq Taylor
in rehearsal

When I was training to be a director, the first question I would always ask myself was: is this story relevant? I've refined my blunt asking somewhat since then, but the sentiment is still the same. My lead lecturer often said that some stories are just always relevant - and he was right. Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act by Athol Fugard is one of those stories.

Set in Apartheid South Africa, it centres around an interracial relationship at a time when they were illegal in the country. Illegal. I remember my parents talking about Apartheid when I was really young; my Mum is black British Jamaican and my Dad is white British - we lived in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey. How much of it I understood I don't know. Or why my Dad was making me blow raspberries and give a thumbs down every time Margaret Thatcher came on the TV, I don't think I knew either. Or even what the NF (National Front) logo in my block was.

I in no way understand what growing up in Apartheid would have been like - and I don't claim to have had a parallel experience. No amount of research would fill in that blank for me. I am grateful to my adored friends Sello and Veronica, who now live in Australia, for our intense and deeply upsetting conversations about Sello's experience growing up in Apartheid South Africa. Sello is black South African and Veronica is Maltese heritage and grew up in Australia, and they have two beautiful dual-heritage children.

The aftermath of last summer's events led many of us to question, confront and challenge the things we'd always known about structural racism globally and in the UK (I know many were confronting this way before last summer and I'm indebted to them). Reading Statements at this point in time with so many questions triggered by the Black Lives Matter protests going round and around in my head led me to what I think the central question of the text is. That summer, I was questioning the things I had always known, the racism that I'd often experienced or often been told I was "imagining". This has been an invaluable part of my creative process and my own development as a person and artist.

In Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, two people commit the ultimate act of defiance by daring to love. It has its complications outside of race, but ultimately many of the conversations Frieda and Errol (played by Scarlett Brookes and Shaq Taylor in our production) have about privilege, class and poverty I'm/we are having now.

I could write about all the dramaturgical work I did before I started rehearsals or about my process in the room, but the truth is that I found Fugard's piece in such distinct conversation with now that I felt compelled to direct it. Something about his place of honesty in his writing drew me in. I heard someone say the other day that "history doesn't repeat itself"; I'm not sure about that. But the wounds in history have to be acknowledged, they have to be confronted. It's the only way that we can move forward.

Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act is at the Orange Tree Theatre 28 August-2 October - book tickets here


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