Sullied Interview | Brighton Fringe


By Germaine Broadbent

Sullied is an award-winning South African dance and spoken word production, exploring the subject of rape from a social and political perspective.

The dance piece was originally the brain-child of Durban-born choreographer and dancer, Kristi-Leigh Gresse and Sullied will be her premiere performance in the UK.

“Sullied is a piece about rape and the stigmatisation of woman, mostly after rape, but also the stigmatisation of woman around the idea of rape being all their own fault,” said Ms Gresse.

For Gresse, this topic is personal to her South African roots as she believes there is a culture of not taking rape seriously and a general lack of respect for women.

Sullied was first performed at the prestigious National Arts Festival in Makhanda, South Africa in 2018 where it astounded expectations by winning a Standard Bank Gold Ovation Award. It is almost unheard of for a first-time performer to gain such an accolade.

The award led to the production being invited to apply for and win the Pebble Trust International Touring Bursary enabling Sullied to perform at Brighton Fringe Festival.

The trip to the UK is not a cheap one for the South African performers. To pay for food and other travel expenses, Gresse and the Sullied team have been crowdfunding and selling merchandise.

Gresse is excited to perform at the Fringe and to meet, watch and interact with other artists from all over the world. “That’s what I’m most excited to see, something new, different ways to express yourselves,” she said.

Using dance to communicate experiences of sexual violence and the subjugation of women is about opening the senses to feel what you see.

“I am a dancer, so my way of communicating is the body,” says Gresse.

People can relate to body movement because there is no language barrier and as rape is a physical violent act, dance is an appropriate medium to discuss this violation.

This was never going to be a one woman show. Sullied is formed from close collaboration of more Durban artists; a second dancer, a poet, an actress, a lighting technician and a director.

“I have such a strong team. I am so grateful for the team that I have,” said Ms Gresse. “They really help carry the piece through from the performers to the lighting designer, everyone just held the piece together.”

Sullied ran from Thursday, May 30 to Sunday, June 2 at The Spire on Eastern Road.