Lara Foot’s imaginative enthusiasm continues to expand the boundaries of theatre in South Africa. In the two years since taking over as CEO and Artistic Head of Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre Centre, Foot has imprinted her artistic vision on her nation’s theatrical landscape.
Passionate about the need to develop new indigenous works and to attract new and younger audiences to theatre, Foot has introduced new programmes to Baxter, including Hip Hop Kaslam, which celebrates township (ekasi) music and street slang, as well as comedy evenings. She has also overseen the expansion of the production capacity at The Baxter by setting up a fourth theatre venue – a versatile mobile theatre, known as Flipside.
An African adaptation of German playwright Georg Büchner’s classic play, Woyzeck, was the first play Foot directed as Baxter’s CEO. The piece, performed in the context of the dismal poverty that continues to haunt South Africa, the high levels of gender and general violence, and the grand narrative that the country’s “moral fibre” is beginning to unravel, provides a contextual backdrop for the major challenges confronting her country today. "I've always wanted to tackle this play. The story is packed with dark intrigue and textured themes," Foot says of the play, which opened in 2010 to critical acclaim.
Foot’s mentor, Sir Peter Hall, expressed the feeling that Foot was first and foremost a writer, rather than an interpreter or a “re-creator”, and she has wasted no time in honing her talent as a skilled playwright. In October 2011, she will direct her own play, Solomon and Marion, an exploration of isolation and longing. Foot says of the creative process. “Writing for me is the space between two breaths. Time stands still.” She was also delighted to have Dame Janet Suzman, one of South Africa’s leading actresses, starring as Marion in the production.
Foot’s passion for using art and culture as a driving force for equality also brought her into contact with Remix, a company of dance artists from various backgrounds and different physical abilities. Their artistic leader is Malcolm Black and their credo is: “Theatre not Therapy, anybody can dance.” Remix is currently Baxter’s resident company.
Towards the end of 2011, Foot will be busy rehearsing A Touch of Balance, a play about Black, who is a Friedreich’s ataxia sufferer. This inherited degenerative neurological disorder requires him to use a wheelchair, but this has not stopped him from continuing to make South African dance history.
Looking ahead, Foot is as determined as ever to provide opportunity to others. “Foremost as a future ambition would be to start a Young Company at the Baxter Theatre Centre – a company of dynamic, young actors based here full-time and with whom I can work to develop a repertory.”