CN&CO are, alongside EasyEquities, proud partners of FEDA

It is safe to say the aftershocks of the 2022 FEDA Festival are still vibrating through adjudicators, performers and audience members alike; the students’ voices still ringing in our ears, their ideas percolating in our brains, their emotional realness freshly stamped onto our hearts. The performances always manage to have a powerful impact on everyone involved, and after 2 years of Covid-affected cancellations, postponements and compromises this effect was only more profound.

FEDA is a wonderful insight into the issues facing the youth of today. For the last few years, the majority of the plays entered are written, created and workshopped by the students themselves. This year we saw a thorough exploration of how teens have internalized COVID, how they navigate mental health and isolation, their anger and disillusionment at the levels of brutality we experience in our society – gender-based violence, war, xenophobia, and the list goes on.

High school students have so much to say, and their voices are often dismissed as being too radical, as lacking sufficient life experience, as being too emotional. But at our festival we treasure these opinions, they are valid, valuable and deserving of our time. We saw student writers put forward biting satirical comedy – ripping off South African society and leaders with an honesty that some of our most seasoned professionals do not dare to do. Each year we come away having learnt something from these brave students.

From a technical perspective we were equally blown away; the performers tackled realism, ambitious physical theatre and musical theatre. We saw an adaptation of the Aeschylus’ Greek tragedy Agamemnon – a truly ambitious choice that was executed with flair, its relevance and applicability to our life today a further reinforcement of the universality of those issues. Mike van Graan’s Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Metaphor (a newly added matric setwork) came to life on our stage – charging this academic text with life and energy. We loved the diverse choices – this creative freedom is what FEDA is all about.

Behind the scenes we saw such inspiring levels of comradery and encouragement between schools. Even though we have a ‘finals’ evening and various awards – this has never been the point of FEDA. It is not a competition but a space for young creators to explore, to learn about the world and themselves through the process of creation and performance, to support and learn from their peers.

This year, five productions made it through to the finals instead of four – the standard was just so high. The finalists were judged by the amazing Ismail Mahomed, who has always been a passionate supporter of the festival. He was so moved and inspired by the pieces that he pledged R2200 to each play personally. The permeating themes on this evening were existential; about questioning our identities, about confronting our purpose in life, about challenging society. The pieces did not have overt messages or lessons to be learnt – much of it was very abstract, mystical and imaginative. This is perhaps why those who attended the finals continue to send messages about their experience; each audience member could internalize the work differently and personally – a truly postmodern night of theatre where you interpret what resonates with you. And what a beautiful and apt way to close our festival.

We are so grateful to everyone who makes FEDA possible, a huge amount of dedication, care and work goes into a successful run. Our sponsors are a substantial part of this, they are the reason our festival was able to survive the cultural drought that was lockdown and they are now the reason that FEDA can focus on doing more community outreach and include schools from less privileged areas. Our aim is to start workshops with them ASAP to nurture their talent and ensure their voices are amplified. We are very excited for this new outreach initiative and have no doubt it will only make next year’s festival more dynamic and powerful.

A theatre in San Francisco has colloquially called itself ‘the empathy gym’ where performers and spectators can go to work out their emotional muscles. This is the function of theatre; it makes us human. After the wealth of work presented at FEDA this year, it cannot be denied that we have all hit the gym in a big way – and we are thrilled to be back in training.