Review: Hold Still, Nadia Davids’ play is breathtaking – trauma of the living, walking in the steps of those who are no longer here to tell their stories- exceptional in every way

Hold Still by Nadia Davids

When:  November 7 to19 , 2022, at 7pm with matinees at 2.30pm
Where: Baxter Flipside
Director: Jay Pather
Cast: Andrew Buckland, Mwenya Kabwe, Tailyn Ramsamy and Lyle October
Set design: Patrick Curtis
Sound design: Neo Muyanga
Lighting co-design: Wilhelm Disbergen and Franky Steyn
AV: Wilhelm Disbergen
Costume design: Angela Nemov
Booking: Webtickets online at  or at Pick n Pay stores.
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There is an age restriction of 13 years

Hold Still– Nadia Davids’ new play pivots on the fractures of generational trauma but is threaded with terrific humour. Rosa and Ben Feigel (Mwenya Kabwe and Andrew Buckland) are a well-heeled North London couple. They live in a beautiful house. There are hilarious moments which lighten the conceptual arc of this play – which is bookended against the family traumas that they both carry. Ben’s grandfather, fled to the forests in Nazi occupied Europe and eventually arrived in London, as a small boy; alone and with big eyes staring out. Rosa is the daughter of South African exiles. She left SA when she was very young. Out of their shared baggage, Rosa and Ben have created a safe haven in their beautiful London home (stunning set design by Patrick Curtis – taking advantage of the voluminous space of The Flipside at the Baxter and striking lighting by Wilhelm Disbergen and Franky Steyn and AV by Disbergen). Everything is humming along nicely, until, their son teenage son Oliver (Lyle October) faces them with a choice- to help him provide refuge for his best friend (Tailyn Ramsamy) who is desperately trying to avoid deportation to another country (not named).

When the knock comes at the door, what will you do to keep others safe? Or will you opt to do nothing? Accountability is a great theory but in practice, good intentions do not necessarily jolt good people out of their comfort zones   Memory may be vivid and we may honour the dead by saying Kaddish (Jewish memorial prayer) and naming our children after the dead but how do we act, as living sentient beings? As Rosa muses, “optimism is privilege”. Here they are in their bubble of privilege, far away from their family’s traumas in other countries and when the crunch comes, what then?

Hold Still is knotted with multiple issues and could have easily become a discourse but Davids’ writing is lyrical, poignant, with loads of release through self-deprecating humour by the power couple, Rosa and Ben. Hold Still is a lament and a howl. Superlative performances, staging and direction by Iay Pather. He has the protagonists dancing around each other (metaphorically speaking), processing, rationalising, sparring with each other.

Mwenya Kabwe and Andrew Buckland are delicious as Rosa and Ben. The energy sizzles between them. It amazes me how they climb into the characters that they play – not repeating themselves. Rosa is the epitome of sassy urbanite – with a killer outfit (Angela Nemov – wow- I want what she is wearing). Buckland is suave and urbane -with fabulous expensive shoes. They are a couple who have been through a lot. They have transcended the pain of the past but the trajectory has hit a curve ball. This drama reverberates powerfully in the state of this sad, sad world, where so many are seeking refuge and a place where they can be safe. A great deal of survival hinges on luck and those who are willing to provide assistance to escape from certain death. Amongst all the noise and fury, signifying suffering and fear, do you stop and grasp what is at stake? Hold Still is breathtaking in its scope- the trauma of the living- walking in the steps of those who are no longer here to tell their stories. Hold Still  is more than a must see. It is an essential see.

Hold Still: Design – set, lighting, sound, AV – a masterpiece in staging – coupled with the exceptional script by Nadia Davids, performances and direction. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

✳ Featured image: Hold Still, Baxter Flipside, October 2022- pic by Mark Wessels.