Athol Fugard township plays



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Fugard´s plays and portraying life in The Townships. These include some of the first plays he wrote.


Klaas and the Devil 1956 and The Cell 1957

Klaas and the Devil was directed by Fugard´s wife Sheila in South Africa in 1956 and The Cell was performed in 1957 with the Circle Players.


Athol Fugard in No-Good Friday No-Good Friday 1958

"Friday Night Blues. Inspired by an empty pocket"
"Life feels like an old pair of shoes that everyone is trying to force me into with me knowing I can't walk a block in them"
"Lets leave that for somebody who wants to write a sad story about a black skin"

Fugard´s first significant play. Performed in Johannesburg with Fugard as Higgins and Zakes Mokae as the thug. For a performance to a segregated white audience Fugard (the only white role) was replaced by a black actor.  Fugard says "My first play - which I regard as an apprenticeship work - is called No-Good Friday. I wrote it and also acted a small part in it. I was about 26-27 at that time".  The photo shows Fugard as Father Higgins, from John Read´s Athol Fugard.



Nongogo by Fugard Nongogo 1959

"No such thing as enough in the townships. If there were I'd be out of business"
"Don't you want the clock? / If I did I would buy one / But I can get this for nothing / You don't get anything for nothing in this world...even if you steal it you don't get it for nothing"
"Me? I just rolled over and died...There's been times I never knew what day it was in here... and I never needed to know. I'd wake up and think is it Monday or Tuesday, maybe Friday? It didn't make any difference. Giving it a name didn't make it any different from the rest"

Athol Fugard Nongogo

First performed in 1959 in Johannesburg with Zakes Mokae as Blackie. Nongogo is slang for a cheap prostitute.  The photo above is of Fugard in rehearsal of Nongogo from Stephen Gray´s "Athol Fugard", the top photo is the Market Theatre poster.



The Coat 1966

"We are a group of actors from New Brighton. Aniko, Marie, Haemon, Jingi...and I am Lavrenti...Allow me a short word of explanation. There are many confused and even contradictory reasons for our existence as a group. The hunger for applause, boredom, conceit, desperation, even money at one stage..."

A man is sentenced to prison for political crimes. All he has to send back to his wife is his coat. The play was based on improvisations. The first performance was directed by Fugard in Port Elizabeth in 1966.The names of the characters are taken from other roles that the actors had played (Lavrenti and Aniko from Brecht´s Caucasian Chalk Circle, Marie from Woyzeck, Jingi from Mandragola and Haemon from Antigone (see also Island).  Fugard says "Then we asked [the actress] what do you do with the coat now you've got it. The wife, the actress playing the wife, said "Well I'm in my house. I've now heard about my husband. I know I'm not going to see him for five years, I've got his coat in my hands, I'll hang it up first, first of all, then go on working. I want to think about him. And the coat".



Athol Fugard People are Living There People are Living There 1968

People are Living There was premiered in 1968 in Scotland with Robin Midgley directing. Fugard directed the South African premiere in 1969 with himself and Yvonne Bryceland. Fugard would later direct his daughter Lisa-Marie playing Sissy.  Milly the landlady has just split up with her lover, one of the lodgers who is always off-stage, and she reflects on her life.  "Hell my heart is still asleep / Once upon a time there was a girl in a white dress full of hope and she was happy. But now she's not anymore."  The other lodgers are pulled into a party which is meant to make the ex-lover jealous.  "What's the difference between an ostrich egg and an ordinary egg?" But it doesn't work, because all the lodgers are victims "Will you believe it that in my twenty years I have never yet once been surprised?/ purpose was dead in me /she can hate the pigeons and you can hate the people / drown our sorrows in the dregs" And the party ends up with truths being revealed "According to Darwin you should be dead / you said you hate me/ I exaggerated/ So you like me?/ No need to go to the other extreme".

Athol Fugard People are Living There

The original title was The Silkworms, the metamorphosis of silkworms representing a theme of the play as people grow older and before they realise it turn into people they don't recognise. But in terms of staging silkworms hidden in a cardboard box are poor theatre.  Similarly a clock sounds out the hours and the passing of time throughout the play "the passing seconds, stop them" but the clock becomes irritating then silly compared with, for example, the clock in Marlowe´s Dr Faustus.



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