Athol Fugard sorrow & rejoicing plays
Fugard in reflective mode, with plays looking back at his own life.
"If I knew I only had one
story left to tell I'd be too frightened to tell it, I'd feel
like a condemned man who had reached his last day"
As in Valley Song the main character (played by Fugard) has a role on stage as a character and as "the author". The Tiger is the young Fugard and the ship is the SS Graigaur. In Cousins Fugard talks of his period as a sailor "I eventually got the hang of [taking the wheel] however and in fact took the tub - the SS Graigaur (Welsh for rock of gold) through the Panama Canal." A problem with the play is that it is in effect a monologue: the characters other than the author/Tiger are a photo which has come-to-life and a sailor who can hardly speak English. So there is no real dialogue and development of character, rather just memories played out sentimentally. The premiere in Princeton USA featured Fugard with Owen Sejake as Donkeyman and Jennifer Steyn as Betty. Fugard directed along with regular Susan Hilferty.
Sorrows and Rejoicings 2001
Sorrows and Rejoicings is described as exploring "the legacy of Apartheid on two women - one white, the other black - who on the surface seem to have little in common except their love of one man, a white poet attached to the Karoo land and peoples of his birth. The drama moves fluidly between the past and present, reliving his despondent years in exile and his eventual return to a new South Africa. With lyrical grace, Fugard once again demonstrates the human struggle to transcend the treacherous injustices of history". Sorrows and Rejoicings premiered in May 2001 in Princeton, NJ. It stars Blair Brown as Allison, L. Scott Caldwell as Marta, John Glover as Dawid and Marcy Harriell as Rebecca. Fugard directs.
Site visitor Ron says (thanks Ron): "Saw it on opening night in Princeton (May 4, 2001). It is a completely "Fugard" play with lots of interweaving of racial, political, and personal subplots. Overall, the pacing was very slow and deliberate (as befitted the scene and storyline), but the dramatic vitality came from the flashback character (David) played by John Glover. Athol was there and appears to be in excellent health and spirits."
The Sorrows are from Ovid, and the Rejoicings are by Dawid (sic) the author character. Unlike Fugard, Dawid lived in exile before returning to South Africa. His white wife and coloured mistress meet after the funeral, watched over by the mainly silent daughter Rebecca. Dawid returns in flashbacks, which are well handled. The play would however be better if the messages were left for the audience to work out and interpret, rather than being spelt out by the characters, such as the last speech of the wife to the daughter. Thanks to Keri of Warwick Arts Theatre for the photos.
Exits and Entrances 2004
"Maybe that's what I'm doing when I
write, what all creativity is about. The hard labour of dreams!"
The world premiere of Exits and Entrances was at the Fountain Theatre, LA USA. The actors were Morlan Higgins and William Dennis Hurley. It was directed by Stephen Sachs and produced by Simon Levy. "The Story: South Africa, 1961.
An idealistic young playwright and a fading middle-aged actor, André. One poised on the threshold of a promising new career. The other struggling against the shadow of being forgotten. The true story of a life-changing friendship". The character of the playwright is too self consciously autobiographical. Interestingly the suggestion by André to the playwright of a topic for a play is "your father... you and your father". The plays also mentions Eugène Marias, already covered by Fugard in The Guest. The photos are from the Fountain Theatre production
Booitjie and the Oubaas 2006
The play premiered in the Baxter Theatre, South Africa and was directed by Janice Honeyman and featured Marius Weyers, Christo Davids and Mary Daniels. The play was developed from the short story Booitjie Barends in Fugard's book Karoo. The title means Boy and Man.
Gerhardus Strydom is a farmer who suffers a stroke and Booitjie Barends is employed to look after him. The ailing man, struggling to re-live the six happiest years of his life through a family album, confides in the young man and shares a dark secret with him. Years later, as Booitjie stands in front of the fine old building which was the home that held so many memories, he realises that dignity had not softened the last days of Baas Gerrie's home.
Two black teenagers, Freddie and Vicky, break into a house an start to rob it. But the white owner, Lionel, returns and he recognises the girl. An interesting play, but it does fall into inevitable plot and symbolism rather than character development. Vicky was born on the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison, hence her name and the name of the play.
The premiere was directed by Lara Foot Newton, designed by Jaco Bouwer and the actors were Cobus Rossouw, Ameera Patel and Wayne van Rooyen. The premiere was at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival.
Coming Home 2009
Fugard revisits his play Valley Song. Coming Home continues the story of Veronika. She now has a child and she returns to her grandfathers house- he has since died but his presence is still there. Veronika struggles to survive with her boy. Alfred, mentioned in Valley Songs, helps.
"Dream big, dream great"
The picture above is from the Arcola production in London, UK in 2010. The boy holds pumpkin seeds- for the grandfather the seeds growing into pumpkins were symbols of hope. Veronika shows the boy the tin where grandfather kept the seeds. The boy uses the tin to keep the list of words he has learnt- new seeds for the future.
A four person play (three adults and one child). Some scenes from Valley Song are woven into flashbacks. And as with much of his work, Fugard celebrates the poetry of Afrikaans language. A character also reads from Fugard's own Karoo and other stories.
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