Empatheatre presents
Lalela uLwandle
Square Space Theatre Durban, UKZN: 15 – 19 October 2019
Lalela uLwandle (isiZulu for ‘listen to the Sea’) is an interactive immersive theatre and public
storytelling experience, led by the Empatheatre collective. The project makes visible the stories
of living with the ocean that are seldom heard in the public domain, drawing from seven months
of collaborative action research into the lives of different KZN citizens along our coast. This
project brings to the surface the lived realities of people involved directly and indirectly with the
ocean, as well as creating a new social platform for public dialogue regarding our collective
pressing concerns for our ocean’s health.
The writing team, led by Neil Coppen with contributions from Helen Walne, Gcina Mhlophe,
Mpume Mthombeni, Dylan McGarry, Taryn Pereira and Kira Erwin, pieced together verbatim
oral histories, interviews, focus group discussions, archival research and traditional local stories
into a richly described narrative of fictional characters hopes, dreams and concerns for our
shared coastal and oceanic heritage. The performance itself is a research methodology used to
bring together otherwise unheard or unacknowledged issues or concerns. After the show the
audience are encouraged to participate in a public dialogue space facilitated by the research
team from Rhodes University and the Durban University of Technology. These rich discussions will
feed into a broader research process, whereby concerns and questions raised in this dialogue
space may be later addressed by experts in social and marine sciences, as well as law.
Lalela uLwandle is performed by Durban-based actors Mpume Mtombeni (playing Nolwandle,
an isiZulu marine educator with an ancestral heritage in Zulu spirituality), Alison Cassels (playing
Faye, a white retired marine scientist and recent widow) and Rory Booth (playing Niren, a young
South Durban social and environmental activist, and descendent of a long line of Durban Indian
fisher folk) . This talented and award-winning cast perform a captivating production based on
the first-hand testimonials that have been crafted into a theatrical journey. As Coppen explains:
“empatheatre is a theatre based methodology that intentionally aims to inspire and develop a
greater empathy and kindness in complex social learning spaces that are experiencing conflict
or injustice.”
The production is led by Dylan McGarry and Taryn Pereira at the Environmental Learning
Research Centre, Rhodes University, in close collaboration with Kira Erwin at the Urban Futures
Centre, Durban University of Technology and forms part of the One Ocean Hub, a global action
research network led by Strathclyde University, and funded by the UKRI Global Challenge
Research Fund.
Monday 7th October
Port Shepstone Civic Centre
Add Address:
Performance 1: 12h00
Performance 2: 18h00
Tuesday 8th October
Scottburgh High School
Performance 3: 12h00
Performance 4: 18h00
Thursday 10th October
Hluhluwe Environmental Education Centre
Performance 5: 12h00
Performance 6: 18h00
Friday 11th October
Performance 7: 12h00 – Ezemvelo KZN venue
Performance 8: 18h00
Saturday 12th October
Richards Bay Zululand Chamber of
Performance 9: 15h00
Performance 10: 19h00
Durban Performances at the Square space
at UKZN howard college campus
Tuesday 15th October
Performance 1: 12h00
Performance 2: 19h00 (official openingmedia/
special guests)
Wednesday 16th October
Performance 3: 12h00
Performance 4: 19h00
Thursday 17th October
Bonus Performance 5: 09h00 – uShaka
Marine world
Friday 18th October
Performance 6: 19h00
Saturday 19th October – back at Square
space UKZN
Performance 7: 12h00
Performance 8: 19h00
For bookings please contact Tamlynn Fleetwood: TamlynnF@dut.ac.za / cell: 0791864423
Empatheatre is a form of storytelling that capitalizes on the rich potential of the live theatre
experience to unpack and demystify the complex inner-workings of the selected issue, in this
case Ocean health and governance. Emerging from an extensive practice- led research
process (co-created by Mpume Mthombeni, Neil Coppen & Dylan McGarry) the team
consisting of different players with varying experience and knowledge/skills sets, begin shaping
an engrossing and relevant true-to- life theatrical story-telling experience. As educational
sociologist and co-founder of Empatheatre Dr. Dylan McGarry explains: “The performances
create new social platforms for the public to engage in relevant public debate and
conversation, that can be used to further respond to the issues at hand..” Neil Coppen (cofounder
and writer/director of Lalela uLwandle) goes on: “The process is intended as a means to
create emotionally rich and factually relevant stories that speak directly and emotively to the
realities of the situation and above all honour the informants’ narratives which are woven
carefully into the messaging fabric of the play.” The process of researching the play, and then
performing the play, with associated public dialogue is changing the ways in which we create
responsive collaborative and accessible research. Mpume Mthombeni reflects: “Empatheatre’s
primary function is to offer a “therapeutic” (iyalapha) experience for audiences, where we are
able to listen, play-back and work through our difficult and complex realities together”. Lead
researcher and co-facilitator for Lalela uLwandle Dr. Kira Erwin at the Urban Futures Centre (DUT)
explains how important Empatheatre spaces are for: “ ensuring different and divergent voices
remain in conversation with each other, especially considering the pressing issues facing
humanity at the moment.” The theatre space is therefore acts like a public courtroom, where a
group of very diverse audience members can engage with well researched, locally relevant
issues and discuss and weigh these issues together in a meaningful and productive way.
The Empatheatre team have been responsible for launching several high-profile and successful
social-justice theatre projects over the last decade including Soil & Ash (focusing on rural
communities facing pressure from coal- mining companies), Ulwembu (street-level Drug
addiction), The Last Country (women’s migration stories and xenophobia) and now Lalela
ulwandle (stories focusing on South African communities’ relationships with the ocean).
Empatheatre was co-developed by Neil Coppen, Dylan McGarry,and Mpume Mtombeni along
with further iterations and developments with the Big Brotherhood theatre company and the
Urban Futures Centre, DUT (Kira Erwin and Monique Marks).
See http://www.uncannyjustness.org/empatheatre.html