Walking Tall – I See You draws emotional response at Constitution Hill premiere

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PAST’s new Walking Tall corporate theatre show drew an emotional response during its premiere performance in the Women’s Gaol at Constitution Hill last week.

Sitting beneath the upper walkway of a building that once imprisoned Winnie Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, the audience was visibly moved by the powerful messages of transformation and sustainability that I See You conveys.

The 20-minute production featured superb performances by Sandile Matsheni and Jonathan Shore who used their bodies and words to convey science and research-based facts about our shared origins – and the positive impact of embracing social and ecological diversity.

Building on the success of PAST’s award-winning Walking Tall Educational Theatre Project, I See You is a powerful tool of transformation for South Africa’s business community. Written by PAST and co-scripted and directed by S’bo Ntshebe and Matthew Lotter, the performance spotlights a conversation between two Homo sapiens that reveals the tension between human beings, and between humanity and nature – and confronts discrimination around race, gender, sexual preferences, and nationality (xenophobia).

In a short address to mark the first public performance of I See You, CEO of the Constitution Hill Trust, Michelle Constant, spoke about the importance of the narratives of the past to “shift and change how we engage with our present purpose either positively or negatively”.

“Through the bones of PAST and the past, we are able to unlock our empathy, to see beyond ourselves and even perhaps into a future where social cohesion actually means something,” Constant said. “The warriors that unlock these narratives are the authors, the artists, the journalists, curators, the thought leaders, the storytellers, the scientists and the griots.”

Constant also drew a link between PAST’s work and South Africa’s constitution – most significantly, the Bill of Rights. “PAST is a progressive journey with progressive communication. It teaches us history, heritage, empathy, reparation, transformation and ultimately gives us an insight into what our Bill of Rights actually means.”

In her introduction, PAST CEO, Andrea Leenen, highlighted the role of Walking Tall – I See You for transformation within the business sector. “The new Walking Tall product that is debuting here today is designed for adult audiences, particularly thought leaders in the business, public and civil society sectors” said Leenen. “It is particularly suited as a unique and compelling tool for diversity and inclusion training, and for training in environmental sustainability.”

Describing the production as “a powerful theatrical expression” of the scientific perspective on discrimination and conservation, PAST’s Chief Scientist, Professor Robert Blumenshine, made the compelling point that I See You provides audiences with alternatives to two prevalent, but damaging, world views. “These are world views of ‘Us vs. Them and in-group superiority’ and that humans are apart from nature, have dominion over it, and that nature exists for our benefit,” he said. “But the science of shared origins shows that both of these views simply cannot be sustained – and Walking Tall – I See You brings this home to corporate audiences in an unforgettable way.”

A Q and A with the director, actors and PAST team after the Constitution Hill premiere revealed that Walking Tall – I See You can be adapted to the specific needs of corporates. “We can customise our scientific take on diversity and sustainability to your organisation’s needs,” commented Leenen. Like Walking Tall itself, the short physical theatre piece is also capable of being performed in multiple different physical spaces, adding to its flexibility in meeting the transformational needs of South Africa’s business community.

*Walking Tall is available for corporate bookings by contacting andrea@pastafrica.co.za and further information available at PAST.org.za

Morgan Collett