Athol Fugard keeping watch plays



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Fugard in reflective mode, with plays looking back at his own life.


The Train Driver 2010

Athol Fugard The Train Driver

The play premiered at the Fugard Theatre in South Africa in Feb 2010.  Fugard says "It came from an article I read in the Mail and Guardian. I was in America at the time and reading my South African papers online and I read about a woman from Samora Machel squatter camp. Three children. The man in her life nowhere to be found.

In an act of desperation - no, an act of despair, because desperation has an energy to it - carried her children, one on her back, two in her arms, to the railway line, stood on the tracks between Philippi and Nyanga and waited for a train, which killed them all. It was Christmas, a time when the rest of us were drinking and putting on funny hats. And here was this woman with absolutely no hope left. Not for her and not for her children." (source is an interview by Zane Henry click for link).

Tania Colyn says "The play itself was classic Fugard – telling the story of a train driver (played by Sean Taylor) who struggles with the guilt of having inadvertently caused the death of a mother who stood on the train tracks with her baby tied to her back. As the driver of the train, there was nothing he could do to save her, and yet he is tortured by the image of her and her baby standing on the track. He goes to the graveyard hoping to find where she and her baby are buried, and there he meets the local gravedigger (played by Owen Sejake). An uneasy relationship forms between the two men as they both try to reconcile themselves with their current situations.".

From , thanks to Tania for kind permission to reproduce.

Athol Fugard The Train Driver


The Bird Watchers 2011

Fugard The Bird Watchers

Fugard's play opened in the Fugard Theatre, South Africa.

"[Fugard]dedicates his latest work to two defining friendships from his early years in theatre in South Africa, namely those with Barney Simon and Yvonne Bryceland.

It celebrates the memorable hours we spent watching birds and talking in the shade of the umGwenya tree at my home in the Eastern Cape Although the characters in the play are a Playwright, a Director and an Actress, the work itself is entirely fictional," said Fugard...

The three friends in the play, are the passionate Garth, played by Sean Taylor (a “rough-around the edges” playwright), Guy De Lancey as the gentle-mannered Lenny, (a director) and Dorothy Ann Gould flamboyant Rosalyn (an actress).

Fugard directs, lighting design is by Mannie Manim and costume and set design is by Saul Radomsky.

Fugard The Bird Watchers - click for source

The image and quotes are from the Fugard Theatre site. click on the image for details.



The Blue Iris 2012

Athol Fugard The Blue Iris

The world premiere of The Blue Iris is at The National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa on 28 June 2012.  Following a run at the festival, the play moves to the Fugard Theatre then Joburg’s Market Theatre.

Directed by Janice Honeyman, the actors are Claire Berlein, Graham Weir and Lee-Ann van Rooi.  Lighting design is by Mannie Manim and set design by Dicky Longhurst.


The Abbess 2001/2002?

Albert Wertheim´s biography mentions The Abbess as the next Fugard play "suggested by an episode in the life of Hildegard of Bingen".


The Shadow of the Hummingbird 2014

The Shadow of the Hummingbird

A play in two halves, the first written by Fugard's wife Paula Fourie and based on his Notebooks, the second by Fugard.  A two-hander, similar to the latter scenes of Coming Home with the grandfather (Oupa) and the child (Boba).

The title comes from Plato's Republic, as Fugard explains at length in the play.  The play shows Fugard's love of words "In Afrikaans ... my skaduwee.... In Spanish... mi sombra...French... mon ombre...".


"Family: Trochilidae; Genus: Calypte; Species: Anna".

The imagery of the shadow is overplayed leading to clichés "The once fine figure of a man... has become a shadow of his former self".

The first scene by Fourie does suffer comparisons with Krapp's Last Tape by Beckett:

  • Krapp dropping the tapes, Oupa dropping the notebooks

  • impatience with his younger self "Sentimental bloody idiot. Shadows, shadows... shadows!"

  • trying to control his weaknesses "Determined to bring my pipe-smoking under control"

  • Krapp's winding and rewinding the tape and Oupa skimming the pages "He turns a few pages backwards, scanning, searching."

  • the despair "Still  no hope!"

But a sparse scattering interesting lines "Living through another Death and once again I know that it is only through love that I will resurrect myself".


The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek 2016

The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek Fugard

Fugard covers a non-mainstream painter, just as in The Road to Mecca. Here it is about Nukain Mabuza, a farm laborer who painted flowers onto rocks in the farmland.




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