Interview: Tackling what-if life questions in Not Falling, tragicomedic play by Juliette Rose-Innes- premiere season – August 18, 19, 20, 2022- Theatre Arts, Observatory, Cape Town

Not Falling – a play by Juliette Rose-Innes

Writer/director: Juliette Rose-Innes
Performers: Katherine Jones and James Stoffberg
Choreographer: Amber Morgan

Premiere season: Theatre Arts, Observatory, Cape Town, August 18, 19, 20, 2022, at 7.30pm
Tickets: R80  and R60 student/concession
Direct booking link:  

In her new play, Not Falling, Juliette Rose-Innes tracks the trajectory of the ramifications, when a twenty something woman (played by Katherine Jones), finds out that she has the the same degenerative disease, as her father. Not Falling is premiering at August 18-20,2022, Theatre Arts, in Cape Town. With the diagnosis, the young woman steers her way through a multitude of realities. There are the medical treatments and dealing with a “careless doctor”. A biggie is the re-calibration of her newish personal relationship. Will her partner stay? There is the possibility of his mate becoming progressively incapacitated and how does he deal with that?  What would you do – sitting in the audience – if it happened to you- if you were in a newish relationship? Stay or leave? It’s nice to say- ‘of course, I would stay’, but not everyone does stay. The interactions are woven into the young woman’s memories/fantasies of her dad. Or nightmares? The three men are played by James Stoffberg – partner, father, doctor. The play, muses, Rose-Innes, is “about falling, and how important it is not to. It is also about love, bodies, nightmares, dreams, boxing, dancing, and sewing, medicine, and not becoming your parents (even though you are).” She adds: “Also, there is some Britney Spears involved.”

Rose-Innes has carved out this play, from her own personal experiences. Her father has lived with Parkinson’s Disease, for many years. Rose-Innes has not been diagnosed with the disease. The play is fictionalised. She draws on her own fears – the ‘what-if’ question. Most of us, live with a spectrum of the ‘what-if’ poser. What if, we get diagnosed with a disease which runs in the family? What if, we get diagnosed with an auto immune disease which has no genetic link and pops up from nowhere? What if, we get hit by a bus? One moment, everything is fine and then everything can change. How do you ‘not fall’ and keep it together; keep living? The play is not meant to be a downer or fear mongering session, reflects Rose-Innes. It is about facing what life dishes up – with humour and fun. It is about laughing at our fears.

Rose-Innes explored living with illness in her play, How to Hold The World, recently staged at National Arts Festival 2022. That was a play for children and was also inspired by her dad and the importance of holding it together – in the face of a dealing with the draw of life. In How to Hold The World, there was an potent mother protagonist who balanced the world on her hip while doing the dishes; without falling. I loved the upbeat, quirky beat of the play and its tender insight. I left the theatre, with a smile and fuzzy warm feeling.  I look forward to seeing, Not Falling.  Rose-Innes tags the play as “tragicomedic physical theatre- a combination of tragicomedy, dance, movement, witty dialogue, and emotion.” Coupled with the Britney Spears interlude, there is choreography by Amber Morgan, who starred in the 2022 National Arts Festival Silver Ovation Award winning show, May I Have This Dance? She has deliberately avoided “suffering porn” in this play. We can all do with theatre which inspires us – and helps us to deal with life- by having fun and a laugh. Juliette Rose-Innes in conversation with TheCapeRobyn:

The genesis of Not Falling

When did you write the play?

Juliette Rose-Innes:  “This play originally started as my UCT Theatre Making final piece and, as a result of Covid, was only ever seen by about 15 people. The bond that we formed as a cast was so strong that I felt we had to do the show again. Katherine [Jones], who has now moved to Dubai, came back to Cape Town to rehearse and perform the show. “

Transfiguring the personal on stage

Your dad lives with Parkinson’s so the play comes from personal experience?

Juliette Rose-Innes: “Yes, my dad has had Parkinson’s disease, and has for many years. I have psychosomatically originating hand cramps. While these two things are definitely not biologically connected, it led me to wonder: what if they were? I started imagining what it would be like to be in the impossible scenario of being a young woman in my twenties to get the same physically degenerative disease as my father. This is unlikely to happen for many reasons; the top ones being, how young I am, how rarely Parkinson’s is hereditary, and how rare it is in women. If this were to happen to me, I would be a medical miracle – poked and prodded by doctors everywhere. And what about my relationships? In your twenties, you go out to a club, hook up with someone, and maybe date them for a few months, but what if I was in the process of falling in love with someone, and then I got an irreversible disease? Would they stay? And how would I feel about my father?”

Laughing at our fears

Seeing the lighter side, helps?

Juliette Rose-Innes:  “In addition to all of that, my coping mechanism is laughter. And the last thing that I wanted to do was create a show of suffering porn, where everything was dark and depressing and no-one was allowed to enjoy themselves. I don’t see the point in that. So I wanted to make it fun to watch – with movement, witty dialogue, and personal relationships between the characters that people could see themselves in. The show isn’t just based on my experiences. I spoke to some people on Parkinson’s support groups and there are imagined scenarios that I have yet to experience … but it is very personal -to myself and my cast.”

Designing Not Falling

The plan is to tour this play, so you have stripped the design to basics?

Juliette Rose-Innes:  “Yes, the set is super simple- as it needs to be used in multiple settings. The one standout is that the bed has silk sheets, as silk is easier for people with Parkinsons, to move on. Costume – base costume black, with texture so it isn’t theatre blacks; with different jackets to indicate different characters/stages in the story and a hospital gown, which Ella wears for her examination, and a lot of the movement sequences. Lighting – super simple rig, mainly used to indicate changes in space and time. Regarding the sound: We have curated songs, some edited by myself and Amber [Morgan].”

Not Falling – production credits

Writer/director: Juliete Rose-Innes
Performers: Katherine Jones and James Stoffberg
Choreographer: Amber Morgan

Producer: Spark in the Dark- a South African theatre company geared towards platforming new voices in South African performance

Written and directed by Juliette Rose-Innes. Recent director credits: Baked Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and her acclaimed children’s show How to Hold the World at 2022 National Arts Festival.
Choreographed by Amber Morgan, who starred in the 2022 National Arts Festival Silver Ovation Award winning show, May I Have This Dance? Amber works as Head of Dance at Byron Bure Academy of Theatre Arts [she started there in 2021]

Starring James Stoffberg and Katherine Jones

James starred as Duke Orsino in Baked Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and in How to Hold the World, at 2022 National Arts Festival and is a recent UCT acting graduate [2021]. Katherine recently graduated from UCT Dance [2021[, and is working in Dubai., where she has had a starring role in 39 Steps.