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.

Througout 2020, Lalela will be performed at key political acupuncture points including the South Africa Marine Science conference, the UN Oceans Conference, and the South Africa National Marine Spatial Planning Conference.