Fugard’s famous play streamed

PAINFUL THEME: Kai Luke Brummer as young Hally, with Desmond Dube, centre, as Sam and Siya Mayola as Willy in the Fugard Theatre’s 10th anniversary production of ‘Master Harold ... and the Boys’
PAINFUL THEME: Kai Luke Brummer as young Hally, with Desmond Dube, centre, as Sam and Siya Mayola as Willy in the Fugard Theatre’s 10th anniversary production of ‘Master Harold ... and the Boys’
Image: CLAUDE BARNARDO

The virtual sharing of legendary Port Elizabeth playwright Athol Fugard's 1985 play Master Harold ... and The Boys is a chance to reignite appreciation of SA’s democracy.

That was the view of acclaimed actor and playwright John Kani, as he welcomed the Cape Town-based Fugard Theatre’s decision to upload a pre-recorded presentation of the play to its website for streaming until April 20.

Master Harold ... and The Boys is based on the true story of Fugard’s relationship with two black cleaners and waiters, Sam Simelane and Willy, at his family’s business during apartheid.

Kani, who played Sam in the original play and Willy in the film version, said he was delighted to learn the play would be accessible online.

In the 2020 version, Desmond Dube plays Sam while Siya Mayola plays Willie,  and Kia Luke Brummer plays Hally.

“When I heard that the play would be online I was delighted, more so knowing that Sam would be played by Desmond Dube whose talent and craft I am absolutely in love with,” Kani said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for more people to see this play because, had it just been in a physical theatre in Cape Town, people in Durban, Jo’burg or Port Elizabeth would have missed out on it,” he said.

The actor said he still carried memories about the play, dubbing his role as one of his best performances to date.

“It was in 1984 when Athol returned from America and offered me the role of  Sam.

“Sam and Hally maintained an adoptive father-and-son relationship while Hally’s alcoholic dad was in hospital but when a disagreement between them arose, Hally lashed out and reminded Sam and Willy that they were just workers there and he was their master,” Kani said.

Hally is a nickname for Harold, Fugard’s second name.

“It was an incredible role for me to play and the play broke records wherever we took it.

“I remember when we took it to schools in Grahamstown [now Makhanda] I could not go through the last part of the play because the kids in the audience — black and white — were weeping.

“This other time, after our performance, an old white gentlemen came to me sobbing saying thank you and he told me about a gardener of his he had never thanked, but instead he had pushed and injured his arm while drunk,” Kani said.

Kani had acted alongside Zakes Mokae as Willy and Matthew Broderick as Hally.

He said he hoped viewers would be reminded of what it took to attain the democracy SA now enjoyed.

“Through this play, the younger generation can hopefully begin to understand, through this play, the thread we have travelled, and understand the cost, and why it is important that we guard jealously the democracy we have today because there are people who paid for it,” he said.

Master Harold ... and The Boys was selected by the Athol Fugard Theatre for its 10th anniversary celebration.

In a statement on its website, theatre staff said: “We chose this particular work of Athol Fugard’s to mark our 10th anniversary because it holds a mirror up to us as people, and forces us to question the humanity behind our thoughts and our actions.

“There is no better time to be reminded of that than now.”

Stream Master Harold ... and The Boys on thefugard.com.

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