Athol Fugard links to plays-2





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Scroll down and click on images for links on the plays.
For links to interviews, related links, South African history etc click here.


  The Last Bus

a workshop piece.

Boesman and Lena- click for link Boesman and Lena

(link has gone) Fugard was inspired to write Boesman and Lena one day when he saw two figures at a street corner. The man was carrying a bag of "empties," (empty bottles which could have brought them a small amount of money, essential for their meagre livelihood). The woman followed him carrying on her head what are probably all their possessions. She had a little dog on a leash. Fugard said that in writing the play he wanted to give words to people who are silenced.

Boesman and Lena- click for link Boesman and Lena

(link has gone) Boesman and Lena, written at a time of mass forced removals throughout South Africa, is the tale of a coloured couple who are evicted from their shack and end up trying to make sense of their plight around a campfire.

The original stage version featured white actors in black roles. The first film version was shot in 1973 and starred Yvonne Bryceland and Fugard.

Boesman and Lena- click for link Boesman and Lena

(link has gone) They contribute to the mood of the film and to our sense of the characters as living, breathing human beings, with a past (and a future) extending beyond the boundaries of the film. More than the on-location shooting, these moments, which are always silent (or at least wordless), free the film from the stage and from the theatre's basis in language, and create an interesting tension with the theatricality of the rest of the movie.

Boesman and Lena- click for link Boesman and Lena

...about an impoverished black South African couple who fall into a Beckett-like argument when they're chased from their shantytown by ruthless white developers.

...Bassett, in particular, stinks up the joint by playing virtually every emotion to the kids in the cheap seats.

Boesman and Lena- click for link Boesman and Lena

We almost expect them to devour each other, so relentless is their verbal sparring.

click for link Boesman and Lena

Craig W. McLuckie Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

Fugard, like Beckett and Camus, seeks an answer to Camus' question of why these people do not commit suicide when faced with the absurdity and squalor imposed on their lives. In Boesman and Lena the answer to the question is forestalled by the lack of a complete and truthful consciousness of the self. Lena is preoccupied with uncovering her identity, which she believes is held in her past and in an other's recognition of her. Boesman, contrarily, fears an encounter with his self because his false sense of identity might be brought into question.

click for link Boesman and Lena

Jack Barbera Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

What particular advice can you remember Mr. Fugard giving about your characters and how to act them?

MOKONE: For me the advice was "Write your own journey." The script from time to time says my character, the old man, murmurs something in Xhosa, but doesn't say what. Actors before me who had played the role, like Bloke Modisane, had written their own journey, so I followed their example and wrote my own story.

  Friday's Bread on Monday
click for link Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act

Andre Brink Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

The most obvious device, already broached in the discussion of role-playing, involves the peopling of the theatrical space of the play with a wide variety of representatives from the society which surrounds the action and the actors. In Statements . . . the policeman represents not only the System, the forces of law and order, but- notably through the statement of Mrs. Buys- the outside world which invades the lovers' haven. In both the other plays the two central actors themselves represent the absent multitude- all the more persuasive because in their invisibility they come to inhabit, to possess, the actors... In Statements, of course, the woman is physically present as "the other person on the floor". Yet from the beginning, even before the intervention of the Immorality Act, the relationship between the play's protagonists is in the process of breaking down ("Is there nothing any more we can do except hurt each other?"). If she represents an attempt toward human wholeness ("And he . . . And I . . . And we . . ."), it is the failure of this wholeness, through a progressive exclusion and denial of the woman by the man toward the end, that results in the irremediable bleakness of the outcome, a near-total darkness quite uncharacteristic of Fugard.

Boesman and Lena- click for link Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act

Eric Grode

The racial and power dynamics between the two, largely submerged at first, shift to the forefront once the two are arrested (the Immorality Act forbade interracial sex). What started as a fairly linear play splinters into a series of poetic monologues that vary in quality.

click for link Sizwe Bansi is Dead

Developed by Fugard in collaboration with the two actors, John Kani and Winston Ntshona.

click for link Sizwe Bansi is Dead

Andre Brink Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

This reading of Fugard's dramaturgy in Sizwe Band returns us to what he himself, at a time when he was a particularly enthusiastic exponent of Jerzy Grotowski's Poor Theatre, regarded as basic to the theatrical experience: an "immediate and direct relationship with our audience". It means that for a more comprehensive evaluation of the interaction between aesthetics and politics we should look at the text as performance, i.e., as part of an experience that has no "outside" to it. In such a reading the audience assumes a vital importance. The narrative in the play may indeed present images of closed circles in which Buntu's words reverberate ad infinitum: "There's no way out, Sizwe." But the act of confronting an audience with such images cannot but stimulate a response, and this in itself is already a breaking of the circle. In the narrowest sense of the word, the play can be read as the response by a group of artists to the challenge of a sociopolitical situation. In performance it is the play that acts as challenge to elicit a response from the audience. "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows," said Orwell (81).

The Island- click for link The Island
(link has gone)
costume designs
click for link The Island

Fugard, who had to hoodwink the apartheid authorities by saying Kani was his driver and Ntshona his gardener - when he had neither a car nor a garden.

The Island- click for link The Island

performance photos
UAF Lab Theatre 1996

The Island- click for link The Island

John Kani on Island
Attempts by the SA government to ban it proved fruitless. Because Kani, Ntshona and Fugard had committed it to memory, there was no existing script that censors could ban....

It has also been translated into more than 30 languages. Kani says he is sometimes surprised by royalty cheques made out in roubles.

Athol Fugard- click for link The Island

The play follows two political prisoners at the notorious Robben Island jail as they rehearse their two-man version of Sophocles' Antigone for the prison's annual concert. It's based on the true story of Norman Ntshinga, a black actor cast as Haemon in a version of Antigone that Fugard directed in the '60s. During a police raid, the actor was arrested under suspicion of being a member of the then-banned African National Congress and sentenced to 10 years at Robben Island.

"He was an enormously talented and very passionate actor," Fugard recalls. "He was almost as devastated not to have the chance to play the role as he was to go to prison. I later received a letter from him that someone smuggled out. He told me he had performed a 10-minute, two-man version of Antigone at a prison concert that he adapted from memory. It was just an extraordinary story. I recognized right away that it would make a great play."

click for link The Island

(link has gone) I suppose Kani and Ntshona are now too well-padded to be playing hungry, ill-treated prisoners, but there is no mistaking the poignancy, the authority or the depth of their remarkable performances. This is a play, and a production, of genuine nobility, and it left this viewer feeling both moved and humbled.

The Island

(link has gone) Peter Brook on Island
Peter Brook's influence on modern theatre is so pervasive that when he says a production influenced him, you can't help but take notice. The renowned director...was affected by the 1973 production of The Island.

The Island

(link has gone) Mandela, Robben Island and Island
One year in the late 1960s, the play chosen for performance at Christmas by inmates of South Africa's notorious Robben Island prison was Antigone. In Athol Fugard's memorable version of the event in The Island, Sophocles was given a new lease of life, with particular and poignant relevance to the struggle for liberation from apartheid in South Africa. In the Robben Island production, the man who volunteered to play Creon had very little stage experience, his only prior role of some note having been, significantly, that of John Wilkes Booth, president Abraham Lincoln's assassin, in a college show. That man was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Although, like his fellow actors, he primarily identified with Antigone, he brought to the interpretation of Creon what must have been, in retrospect, a peculiar insight.

John Kani- click for link The Island

John Kani, Crossings

With The Island there was an interesting situation. Everybody knew there was a Robben Island, Mandela was on Robben Island; everybody knew there were people in detention, people underground; everybody knew people in exile. But people were afraid to touch this subject. We had to find a way of talking about these things, of telling the story.

What we discovered after creating Sizwe Bansi was that we couldn’t have the text written down. This was because it would have been a document; it would have meant that the police would have evidence that could be presented to a District Attorney who might lay charges against us. So we kept continuing to improvise according to the interactions and response with the audience. That way we used our life experience, structured it around a story, to take the audience on a journey through to the end of the evening.

click for link The Island

(link has gone) Chris Jones, Chicago Metromix

As they enact the Greek tragedy, they discover that the civil disobedience of the mythical heroine must be translated to their own situation. This is a play about the arts as a tool of empowerment and the simplicity of its narrative merely adds to its weight.

click for link Dimetos

Gerald Weales Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

His method in Dimetos was even less characteristic. There he tried to embody the idea in a man, but one who lived in no recognizable place, no identifiable time. Still working with the play after its first production at Edinburgh, he indicated that he was thinking of the time of the play "without letting any specifics creep onto the page" but that he had "two specific settings in my imagination" (Notebooks 219). Working tools, presumably, for they never moved from his imagination to the stage. Certainly the New Bethesda that became the "remote province" of Act One of Dimetos has none of the substantiality of the New Bethesda outside Miss Helen's door in The Road to Mecca.

The Guest- click for link The Guest

(link has gone) BFI

Athol Fugard plays the Afrikaner intellectual, naturalist, poet, author and rebel Eugene Marais, who publicly attacked Kruger's repressive Transvaal government and raised hackles by lecturing on 'The Joys of Opium'. Focused on when he was trying to overcome morphine addiction on a remote farm, Devenish's film is a dark, poetic examination of a life which, in Marais' words, was 'founded on pain and sorrow'.

click for link A Lesson from Aloes

Gerald Weales Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

The three characters in Aloes--distantly based on people mentioned in Notebooks as early as 1961--are veterans of the struggles in a cause that--for two of them at least--has come to seem false, a kind of ideological self-delusion that made their idealism and their sense of community appear to be politically important.

click for link A Lesson from Aloes

Two analogies come to mind. First, I think of the elaborate nine-tiered racial classification upon which the apartheid system was based. Every person in South Africa was classified soon after birth, based on a complex set of decision rules that included, if necessary, determining the color of the skin beneath the fingernails. No one could exist between or outside the system. To be was to be classified. From this perspective a "new" type of aloe plant would be impossible.

A second analogy resides in the aloe's endurance. They make their home and thrive in seemingly hostile territory. What they are they are. To transplant an aloe plant to England, or to some other lush environment, won't be successful, because it would have to compete with other plants that are already adapted to the cool, rainy environment. It makes no sense to ask an aloe why it prefers to remain in the drier climate.

click for link The Drummer

Gerald Weales Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

The Drummer, the five-minute mime piece he wrote for the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1980, grew out of an image he found in New York- a derelict playing with drumsticks.

click for link ´Master Harold`...and the boys

This play has been accused in some quarters of personalizing racism and avoiding confrontation of its systemic, societal qualities. What do you think of this argument? What do you think is the significance of the play's title?

Master Harold ´Master Harold`...and the boys

(link has gone) These differing influences caused Fugard to use the discussions between Sam and Hally to demonstrate the religious, racial, and political tensions of his lifetime in South Africa.

click for link ´Master Harold`...and the boys

The play begins and ends with Sam and Willie alone on stage, their relationship framing the interaction with Hally. Does this technique serve to highlight the centrality of Hally's presence, or marginalize him, in your opinion?

click for link ´Master Harold`...and the boys

Master Harold... and the Boys

"It was difficult to realize that I'd have to spit in my friend's face during every performance. During the show, which runs without intermission, I have to stay in the moment and stay in character in order to deal with this awkward situation. This is a very actor-driven show, and I feel a lot of responsibility playing the title role."

click for link ´Master Harold`...and the boys

John O. Jordan Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

Structurally, the play has three main sections: a prelude when Sam and Willie are alone on stage; a long middle section when Hally is on stage, storming around and "bumping" into people and things; and a brief postlude when Sam and Willie are again alone together.

click for link

The Road to Mecca

A 20 page resource pack about The Road to Mecca.

The topics covered include a synopsis, a biography of Fugard, directing the play, lighting, background on South Africa, classroom ideas.

"I love words and ´the space between words´ which is a phrase of Fugard´s´. There is a lot of dialogue in the play and each character has an individual style.... the almost aggressively active Elsa provokes a seemingly passive Helen to explain why she feels as she does..." .

This is highly recommended.

click for link The Road to Mecca

The "Mecca" metaphor speaks to the relationship between imagination and freedom. Likewise, Miss Helen's candles illuminate the deep connection between creativity and light. Miss Helen's Afrikaner community expected her to shrivel up and die after her husband's death; for them, the "right" thing to do was for her to close the drapes to keep out the light.

The Road to Mecca- click for link The Road to Mecca

(link has gone) David Edwards, The Blurb, 2002

The play, originally written in1984, is a remarkably complex piece of work. There are only three characters, and the entire production takes place in one room. But in that space, Fugard creates a remarkable parable. The piece works on several levels; as a character study of the three participants, an allegory about the problems (past and present) of South Africa, and as an examination of human frailty and strength.

At the time it was first produced, The Road to Mecca must have been dynamite in South Africa. Despite no black character ever appearing on stage, the work challenges and confronts both the immediate issue of apartheid, and the deeper question of racism in all its forms.

click for link The Road to Mecca

Mecca is about the freedom of the human spirit. Two characters, Elsa and Marius fight for the soul of Miss Helen. Finally, it is Miss Helen alone who decides what Miss Helen will do.

click for link The Road to Mecca

Janet Ruth Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

it is unusual to find a man exploring the complexities of women's relationships, which is precisely what Athol Fugard does in The Road to Mecca (first performed in 1984 at the Yale Repertory Theater). He uses the dose friendship between Helen and Elsa to explore many issues, especially the isolation of the artist and other rebels and the ability of an artist to nurture younger friends. These universal themes enable the play to transcend mere character studies and to articulate the deepest needs of both men and women.


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