Athol Fugard links to plays-3





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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.
click for link Nongogo


Sheila Fugard Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

By the time Athol was writing his next play, Nongogo, he needed other influences. He had found a new inspiration in Tone Brulin, a Belgian theatre director, brought out to South Africa by the National Theatre. Tone was both a director and playwright. Athol sat in on his rehearsals and got a feel for European theatre. This experience broadened his outlook and gave him more confidence in himself. Tone sensed Athol's unique talent. There were township visits with him, and later we went to Brussels, where Tone was helpful in getting Athol work in Dutch theatre.

  The Blood Knot

updated as Blood Knot by 1987 (for links see 1987 version).

Hello and Goodbye- click for link Hello and Goodbye

Sam Thielman Curtain Up

This is a play about decay, after all, and the ugly mid-century décor is perfectly realized by Sean Doyle's set and Nina Mahi Zardonzny's costume design. The production flags somewhat during the longer monologues, especially those delivered by Carroll, whose awkward demeanor works better as a foil for Novack's brashness. Still, Fugard's morbid spectacle of a dying family unit is a rare and challenging one, and the undertaking is ultimately worth the effort.

Athol Fugard Hello and Goodbye

C. Carroll and K. Novack, Photo: John Mulcahy

click for link The Coat

Dennis Walder Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

It was a year before the result became visible, in The Coat, "An Acting Exercise" which was presented to its first audience, a white Port Elizabeth "theatre appreciation" group who, having asked to see a sample of their work, were expecting a comedy, Wole Soyinka's Brother Jero. But since the Native Commissioner would permit performance in a "white area" only on condition the black performers did not use the toilets, and returned to the township after the show, the Players (after bitter debate) decided to do a reading of The Coat instead, using pseudonyms from their earlier roles to avoid trouble with the police, and a Brechtian actor-presenter who encouraged their white audience to think about, not merely sympathize with, what they were witnessing. Fugard's aim was to "shatter white complacency and its conspiracy of silence"; for the group, going ahead was an act of "solidarity," a testimony to their work together over the years. The collaborative procedure, with Fugard as "scribe" and provocateur, and the performers drawing on their knowledge of New Brighton, was fully vindicated by the result, which left their audience of one hundred and fifty frozen in "horror and fascination" (Notebooks 142-43) at being taken out of their safe white world into township oppression. As "Lavrenti" (Mulligan Mbikwane) announces in the opening address: 'We want to use the theatre. For what?... Some of us say to understand the world we live in, but we also boast a few idealists who think that Theatre might have something to do with changing it (Township Plays 123).

click for link People are living there

(link has gone) performance review
As Fugard's intellectual mouthpiece, it is the character Don who has to conceptualise the issues, making him a problematic and difficult character to play.

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.

Blood Knot- click for link Blood Knot

(link has gone) Graham has decided, instead, to focus on the physical realities of the text, revealing its incredibly detailed set of rituals and its almost sado-masochistic inner structure. Returning to a primitive desire to explain the realities confronting two impoverished men in one room, he has built from there.

click for link Blood Knot

intervals marked by a wind-up alarm clock (a device that Fugard shamelessly borrows from Jean Genet's The Maids).

Blood Knot

(link has gone) Far too often Fugard’s earlier works - being budget-friendly and politically motivated - are tackled by amateur or student theatre groups; and far too often the play’s message and its political lesson is lifted out and prioritised.

click for link Blood Knot

Mary Benson Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

"A play that never ended," is Athol Fugard's recollection, in a conversation with me in 1986, of the first performance of The Blood Knot: it went on for four hours "on a terrible little stage, only about six inches high at one end." The momentous event took place in Johannesburg in 1961 with Fugard and Zakes Mokae playing Morrie and Zach. The tiny rehearsal room of the African Music and Drama school in Dorkay House, a rundown factory in the automobile district, was packed on that suffocating summer's evening. Egg boxes were glued to one wall to shut out the noise of traffic, but through blacked-out windows on the opposite side came the beat of drums from a nearby mine compound.

click for link Blood Knot

Le lien du sang (Blood Knot in French)

Sud-Africain blanc, Athol Fugard est un auteur joué dans le monde entier. Ses plus récentes pièces écrites en collaboration avec des écrivains noirs ont intéressé Peter Brook, et bien d'autres. Mais, en France, l'heure de la gloire n'a pas sonné pour lui... La création du Lien du sang pourrait aider à le mieux connaître, car elle nous montre que Fugard n'a pas cette raideur, cette netteté anglo-saxonne qu'on lui attribuait volontiers, mais un art très complexe de traduire la réalité.

click for link A Place with the Pigs

Gerald Weales Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

If The Guest is the only Fugard work to make an obvious allusion to his alcoholism, A Place with the Pigs is the only one to celebrate his drying out. Pavel begins the play with the hope- even the expectation- that he will be able to leave the pigsty in which he has been hiding, but when this proves impossible and when the excitement of a momentary walk outside ends with his hurrying back into his sanctuary/cage, he declines from the relative fastidiousness of the first scene to complete the filthy identification with the pigs. It is only after his wife has beaten him back into his manhood that he is able to release the pigs, and he and Praskovya can leave the sty.

My Children My Africa- click for link My Children! My Africa!

(link has gone) At the heart of the play is a paradox. Mr M passionately needs to be a teacher. But he can only be a teacher if he obeys South African laws and offers a Bantu education. Ironically the Bantu education he offers leads Thami to reject him in and his school.

The play is both a cry for tolerance and a bitter acceptance of the violence that flares to destroy peace in South Africa. It is not possible to ignore the parallel between Mr. M., and his search for change through peaceful and intelligent intervention, and another Mr. M., now President Nelson Mandela.

click for link My Children! My Africa!

Nicholas Visser Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

Newspaper articles and reviews in Johannesburg and Gape Town published to coincide with the opening of the play in the two cities describe how Fugard found the initial germ of the play in a newspaper article describing the death of a teacher in the Eastern Gape town of Cookhouse in 1984 (actually, of course, 1985). Finding out more about the incident has not been easy. It is not mentioned in the Race Relations Survey, nor was it reported in major newspapers outside the Eastern Cape. Until recently it was, understandably, difficult to find anyone in either opposition or government circles prepared to speak freely about what took place. As far as it is currently possible to reconstruct the incident, what took place was this. On Tuesday, 30 April 1985, Anela Myalatya (Fugard oddly retains his actual name), a twenty-nine-year-old teacher of junior secondary school pupils (not, as in the play, an elderly teacher of senior pupils) at Msodomvu Intermediate School in Cookhouse became caught up in the political turmoil of the Eastern Cape. Early in the day he acted as an interpreter at a meeting at which the circuit inspector responsible for African schools in the area addressed teachers, parents, and pupils about the need, as he saw it, to "normalize" the school. Later in the day Myalatya requested permission to be absent from school the following day. He had learned that because of an incident that had taken place the previous week he might be in some danger.

click for link Playland

Philip Fisher British Theatre Guide

This piece is a little slight and on occasions the sentiments can seem a little trite but even so the subject matter is very important and remains so as cultural differences are still apparent in South Africa and Zimbabwe today. With good performances from both Samson Khumalo and Mark Wakeling, this thought provoking play is one that anyone interested in politics and the issue of race should see.

click for link Playland

Mary Benson Twentieth Century Literature, Winter 1993

The play's gestation began in December 1966 when Fugard took his small daughter Lisa to Playland, an amusement fair traveling the Karoo. He watched the attendant of the "happiness machines," an African in faded overalls, behaving oddly, "muttering darkly to himself," his eyes with an "abstracted intensity" (Notebooks 145). That man is now incarnated in the character of Martinus. The catalyst for Fugard in writing the play was a photograph of white South African soldiers dropping the corpses of black men into a crude hole. In the play a black woman stands, watching--a sorrowful mother?--an image inspired by Pergolesi's Stabat Mater.

click for link My Life

(link has gone) The vision it offers of young people struggling to come to grips with their personal growth and development in a country which is itself struggling to cope with fundamental change is warm, funny, disturbing and, occasionally, inspirational.

Valley Song- click for link A Valley Song

The old men, he says, represent winter wisdom, the young girl spring dreams.

click for link A Valley Song

As an actor, Fugard is as straightforward, skilled and likeable as he is as a writer.

Valley Song A Valley Song

the play may be too small, too simple, too obvious in its human drama, its poetry, its elegiac tone and its wistful politics. But such is the play. And that's just fine.

Captains Tiger- click for link The Captain's Tiger

(link has gone) interview
I took to theatre like a fish to water. I discovered that I was fascinated in particular with language in the way it lives in the spoken word, what happens with it in people's mouths.

click for link The Captain's Tiger

The Captain's Tiger is woefully underwritten: it lacks interesting conflict, it suffers from anaemic character relationships, and the dramatic punch line is telegraphed from the start.

click for link The Captain's Tiger

Fugard plays himself brilliantly. He is without question the best actor on the stage at all times, carrying the play with his ability to create a truly engaging character. Beginning with his opening soliloquy, Fugard captures the audience with his incredible, musical diction and energetic mobility.

The Captain's Tiger

(link has gone) interview by Charles Fourie
[Tolstoy] was my great hero in my reading youth, and he still is. I've just finished reading Anna Karenina again...

Dialogue is iceberg territory where you see very little above the water of the real mass that is hidden beneath.

The Captain's Tiger

(link has gone) That there is doubt indicates that this play is far less didactic than many of Fugard's previous works, some of which, in performance and text, placed the intellectual before the theatrical. Despite this text's intensely personal nature, where the other characters are foils for Fugard's journey, it rarely allows for audience identification or empathy, promoting a sense of indifferent detachment....

Perhaps the production would have been more effective and certainly more varied if the young Fugard was played by a young actor, thereby at least releasing the older, "narrative" Fugard from performing his own recollections.

Sorrows and Rejoicings- click for link Sorrows and Rejoicings

(link has gone) In Sorrows and Rejoicing Athol Fugard has written an opera without music. Characters talk to the audience much of the time, in lengthy, repetitive arias. They very seldom talk to each other....Some Americans gave it a standing ovation. But I think they were applauding the end of apartheid. Not a good play.

Sorrows and Rejoicings- click for link

Sorrows and Rejoicings

Marianne McDonald

Fugard Sorrows and Rejoicings

This play is about the personal journey of everyone in it. There are five main personal relationships: Marta/Dawid, Allison/Dawid, Dawid/Rebecca, Allison/Marta, and Marta and Rebecca. Dawid is dead, so those relationships are over, even though they still influence the lives of all he touched. The last two relationships are ongoing, significant not only for the people involved, but symbolically for the future of South Africa. In these relationships there is hope. Allison and Marta made a journey from conflict to reconciliation, as Marta says, "Life is full of surprises, hey Allison".

click for link Sorrows and Rejoicings

(link has gone) "Sorrows and Rejoicings," above all, is about reconciliation: between Marta and Allison, between Dawid and his illegitimate child by Marta, Rebecca and finally between the "new" South Africa and the "old," apartheid-era South Africa. Because none of these reconciliations quite succeed, however, the audience cannot help but leave the theater feeling as helpless as the spectators in Dawid's ruin.

2ST Sorrows and Rejoicings

(link has gone) 2ST, Dr. Marianne McDonald

"This is the first play written in its entirety outside of South Africa, and it shows the profound longing of a man for the land of his birth and his mother tongue. It is a play about someone who has left South Africa, and who misses his country every day"

Sorrows and Rejoicings- click for link Sorrows and Rejoicings, David Finkle

As the confrontations in Sorrows and Rejoicing come one after another, the suffering that the end of apartheid and its  have inflicted on the various populations of South Africa is made increasingly plain. As Fugard depicts them, the accumulated feelings come to possess the burning intensity of a flame. But another revelation about Fugard’s compulsive vision comes into focus as well, and it takes the edge off his accomplishment: He’s too schematic. The Sorrows and Rejoicing symbols proliferate until they almost topple the play: The living room in which the afflicted country’s peoples are so carefully represented is too patently a metaphor for South Africa.

Exits and Entrances- click for link Exits and Entrances

Karen Weinstein Los Angeles 1 Jun 2004

It is not often that a new work by an acclaimed playwright opens in a very small theater. Exits and Entrances not only debuted at the 78 seat Fountain Theater on the east side of Hollywood, it was expressly written for this venue. It is by Athol Fugard’s own description, “a small play,” and is satisfying only if viewed in this light. He sees himself as being “a miniaturist (who) writes on small canvases.” A one act, written for two characters, and lasting less than 90 minutes including extensive excerpts from classic theater, Exits and Entrances is a vignette or a showcase, rather than a fully developed play...

So what is missing? Exits and Entrances is tightly written and very quotable, skillfully acted and directed. Yet something is lacking. With all that finesse, audience emotion is not engaged. Huguenet’s acting competence is established repeatedly with Hurley reciting complete passages from classic works such as the entire soliloquy from Hamlet. But the pain and loneliness of a closeted homosexual in an intolerant society, or a confirmed Afrikaner in a world that is passing him by, is not explored. Might it not be better to devote less stage time to the established genius of Shakespeare and more to the inner life of the characters? Was the young playwright always so charming and gracious? Could he be as enveloped in the politics of his country as he is and yet always present such a pleasant face? This is autobiography without revelation--well done and pleasant to watch, but it could have been so much more.

Exits and Entrances- click for link Exits and Entrances

Sharon Perlmutter,

In Huguenet, Fugard has written a true tour de force role, and Morlan Higgins makes the most of it. Whether he is putting on makeup, running through his lines, having a prima donna moment, or kindly sharing a word about his life in the theatre with the playwright who clearly idealizes him, Higgins is mesmerizing. (Indeed, perhaps the greatest feature of William Dennis Hurley's performance as the playwright is his ability to disappear even though he's still on stage.) In its short 80-minute running time, Exits and Entrances gives an actor the opportunity to play Sophocles and Shakespeare as well as Fugard, and Higgins doesn't waste it. While running lines in preparation to take the stage as Oedipus, Huguenet slides into character, giving a taste of a powerful, chill-inducing performance. But Higgins also plays the moments Fugard has written, making a speech about where an actor's "home" is truly poignant even though we all know the place he is going to name.

click for link Exits and Entrances

Judy van der Walt  Tonight 25 May 2004

Almost 90 years ago in a theatre in Bloemfontein, a Russian ballerina lit a creative spark in an 11-year old Afrikaans boy who would one day be recognised as a visionary in South African theatre.

Many years later, the boy, André Huguenet, became a mentor to Athol Fugard, who was named the greatest active playwright in the English-speaking world by Time magazine in 1989 and whose plays are produced with a frequency second only to The Bard.

Now 71, Fugard tells Judy van der Walt why his latest play is an 'an expression of gratitude I must make before I climb into my coffin a reasonably contented man...'

The autobiographical Exits and Entrances is about the playwright's relationship with Huguenet, who gave him his first job as an actor, casting him as the shepherd who clings desperately to the ankles of Huguenet's Oedipus.

"André was very important to me in terms of my awareness of theatre. The fact that he was a visionary might well have been the provocation that I needed to formulate a vision of my own," Fugard says.

click for link Karoo

Michiel Heyns Sunday Independent, 10 July 2005

The problem may be that in fleshing out his characters Fugard does not imagine them from the inside out; he imposes attitudes upon them. Bluntly put, these are location dwellers not as they might have experienced their own existence, but as Fugard wanted to see them.


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