Athol Fugard my africa plays



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Fugard is famous as a campaigning dramatist, tackling issues of apartheid. Now that apartheid is over, and South Africa has a democratic government, Fugard looks at the problems of the new South Africa.


My Children My Africa My Children! My Africa! 1989

"Knowledge has banished fear"
"Hope...don't be fooled by its gentle name. It is as dangerous as Hate and Despair"
"The clocks are ticking, my friends. History has got a strict timetable. If we're not careful we might be remembered as the country where everybody arrived too late"
"The thought that you and Thami would be another two victims of this country's lunacy, was almost too much for me. The time for lamentation is past"

My Childen My Africa Fugard

A teacher Mr M and his two pupils. Fugard says "At that hour with the Uitenhage mountains ahead of us...this was the first time I had a sense of Africa as an epic adventure- a vision which finally found its expression in the mouth of my beloved Mr M".  Apartheid was ending and Fugard attacks the decision of the ANC to boycott schools and the damage it would cause a generation of Africans. Fugard has moved from the injustices of the South African government to the mistakes of the ANC.  First performed at the Market Theatre, Johannesburg on 1989. John Kani starred as Mr M and Fugard directed. Fugard would later direct his daughter Lisa in the play.  Photo above of Bisi Adigun, Judith Roddy and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith in the Irish production by Theresia Guschlbauer, photo below of Glynn Turman as Mr. M. and Meghan Heimbecker in The Wilma production by Blanka Zizka.

Athol Fugard My Children My Africa



Athol Fugard My Life My Life 1992

"They don't know that when I'm sad I pretend I'm not... even though my inside is burning with pain"
"Are you impressed with our stories because of what the say about us, or maybe because of something they say about you?"

A piece Fugard workshopped with Elleanor Busi Mthimunye, Reshoketswe Maredi, Heather Leite, Riana Jacobs and Sivagamy Govender, based on diary extracts from the five girls.  In Bare Stage Mary Benson says "Athol was in the city, creating a play with five young women, chosen from auditions with high-school students. he did not intend the cast to be all-female but they had shown far greater potential than any of the boys. Busi and Shoki were black, Gamy Asian, Heather white and Riana of mixed race. He saw it as a chamber quintet for which he would interweave their stories."

An aerobics session frames the play (called by Fugard a recital) which is made up of stories told by the girls.  The setting is just before the first free elections in South Africa.   Fugardīs heavy collaboration with others is reminiscent of his work with Kani and Ntshona, but less successful.  However the sessions were clearly an inspiration for Valley Song.  Fugard says "I wanted to rediscover the potency of the simple, unadorned, uncosmeticised word".  The words are the girls "although I never tampered with the text or content of the stories I take responsibility for the choice and juxtaposition of the material".  Last photo by Ruphin Coudyzer from Wertheimīs biography, others from "My Life & Valley Song".

Athol Fugard My Life  Athol Fugard My Life



Athol Fugard Playland Playland 1993

"I watch everything all the time/ So when do you sleep? / I don't sleep"
"if you want to know the devil I can show you him as well. He wears a khaki uniform, he's got an AK74 in his hands/ SWAPO/ Ja, thats his name"
"Forgive me or kill me. That's the choice you have"
"A just a bloody dream. It's what goes on in your head when you are sleeping, when your eyes are closed. Like when you imagine things... Don't you even know the difference between that and what is real? Must I now explain that to you?"

Athol Fugard Playland - click for link
The New Perspectives production in the UK 2015

John Kani and Sean Taylor in Athol Fugard's Playland
John Kani and Sean Taylor

Fugardīs first play after apartheid. On new year's eve 1990 two men meet at an amusement park. Martinus is the watchman.  Gideon is the visitor who hangs around Martinus. And the Playland is a form of hell or purgatory where both live with their guilt of murder, the one for passion the other for politics.  Gideon repents but is not forgiven, while Martinus is forgiven but does not repent.  The play is a parable for South Africa and reconciliation, two sides of a bloody conflict coming together.  Fugard said during the writing of Playland "I am in fact at work on a new play at the moment [Playland] and I still find myself terribly intimidated by the reality of blank paper. None of my past experience in writing plays helps me deal with what I describe as īthe inquisition of blank paperī when I face up to it at the outset of a new work."  The character Gideon le Roux is based on Garth, Fugardīs cousin (see Cousins) "a man suffering from shellshock...I also understand now why I heard echoes of his unnerving laugh all through the writing of Playland."

"This photo from our border war was a catalyst in the writing of Playland.  I added to it the watchful, sorrowing presence of a mother".  Fugard quoted in the programme for the Temple Productions Playland.  The photo is by John Liebenberg.Photo by Michael Brosilow from Wertheimīs biography

Playland source




Athol Fugard Valley Song Valley Song 1996

"if only ... we could sit down at the kitchen table tonight and talk about things the way we used to"
"You must let me go, Oupa, otherwise I will also run away from you"
"open your eyes and look around you"
"it involves letting go of things and I've discovered that that is a lot harder than I thought"
Did a woman every smell as good as the Karoo earth after a good rain?  Or feel as good?"

Old Africa and new Africa and the need for the young to form their own lives.  A double role for Fugard, playing the author and the grandfather Buks. The other player is the 17 year old Veronica.  Fugard says "I had ended up sick and tired of the madness and desperate scramble of my life in the make-believe world of the Theatre. I wanted to return to īessentials, to the īrealī world, and here was my chance to do it".  The play is dedicated to Barney Simon with whom Fugard worked.  Coming Home is Fugard's play of what happens to Veronica.

Athol Fugard Valley Song  Athol Fugard Valley Song

Athol Fugard Valley Song  Athol Fugard Valley Song

Nandini Rao and Jagdish Raja under Arundhati Raja's direction (left and below) and Eboni Summer Cooper and Vincent Dowling of The Miniature Theatre of Chester production, directed by Byam Stevens (right).

Athol Fugard Valley Song




Coming Home 2009

Fugard Coming Home- click for link

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.

Coming Home

"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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