This Sunday, June 11 2017, Athol Fugard celebrates his 85th birthday and the Fugard Theatre will mark this occasion with an all South African, star-studded production of his acclaimed play The road to Mecca.
Eric Abraham presents this Fugard Theatre production, which will run at the Fugard Theatre in March and April 2018 before transferring to the Market Theatre in Johannesburg for a limited season.
Sandra Prinsloo is Miss Helen (So Ry Miss Daisy, Oskar en die Pienk Tannie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, Miss Julie), Marius Weyers is Rev Marius (The Fugard’s The Father, Oom Wanja / Uncle Vanya, Hamlet, Twee Grade van Moord, The Gods Must Be Crazy) and Emily Child is Elsa Barlow (The Fugard’s The Eulogists, The Pervert Laura, The Father).
Direction will be by Greg Karvellas (The Fugard’s The Eulogists, Clybourne Park, The Father, Bad Jews and the forthcoming Shakespeare in Love). The production will be designed by Saul Radomsky (The Fugard’s Bad Jews, Clybourne Park, District Six, Kanala, The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek) with lighting by Mannie Manim (The Fugard’s The Mother, The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek, The Blue Iris) and costumes by Birrie Le Roux (The Fugard’s West Side Story, Kanala, The Father, The Mother, Clybourne Park, King Kong). Sound design will be by the Fugard’s resident Musical Director Charl-Johan Lingenfelder (The Fugard’s King Kong, West Side Story, The Rocky Horror Show, Cabaret, Funny Girl).
Inspired by Helen Martins, who lived in Nieu-Bethesda and created the now-famous The Owl House – which is designated a provincial heritage site – The road to Mecca tells the story of a woman's desire for personal and artistic freedom within the narrow confines of a conservative and highly religious community in the Karoo in the early seventies and apartheid South Africa.
Athol Fugard wrote this play in 1984, creating the lead role of Miss Helen for the late South African theatre star Yvonne Bryceland.
Legendary theatre critic Frank Rich writing in The New York Times about The road to Mecca, commented “Road to Mecca examines the core of artistry ... Artists are driven to forge their version of the truth even when they have no hope of an audience, even when they must work with the most humble of materials in the middle of nowhere. Artists are dangerous because they won't deviate from that truth, no matter what pressure to conform is applied by the society around them, reminding us that the artistic conscience is inseparable from the moral conscience.”
“We could think of no better way to mark Athol's 85th birthday in South Africa than with the Fugard Theatre's first production of The road to Mecca with an extraordinary South African cast – theatre icons Sandra Prinsloo, Marius Weyers and the brilliant young Emily Child" says Eric Abraham, Founding Producer of the Fugard Theatre.
“Athol Fugard has committed his career and life to restoring our sense of a common humanity. To masterfully pricking our consciences to the injustices of apartheid, inequality and the inadequacies of the new dispensation. His deeply rooted South African narratives resonate universally. A unique figure who was the first to create roles for all South Africans – especially for black actors. His narratives and indelible black characters profoundly changed the way millions of people world over viewed apartheid. Our theatre is proud to bear his name and strive to continue his legacy as a crucible of creativity and common humanity for all South Africans.”
Time Magazine regards Fugard as "the greatest active playwright in the English-speaking world".
Athol Fugard was born in 1932 in Middelburg in the Karoo. An internationally acclaimed playwright director and occasional actor, for over half a century he has written almost forty soul-searing plays with roles for all South Africans which have moved audiences in South Africa and around the world to laughter and tears as they reflected the inhumanity of apartheid. His plays champion truth and a fundamental universal humanity. In 2011 he received the ultimate recognition from the world’s most prestigious theatre community – a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre. He is also the author of four books and several screenplays. His plays include Blood Knot, Boesman and Lena, Master Harold and the Boys, The Train Driver, The Blue Iris and The Shadow of the Hummingbird. Tsotsi, based on his 1980 short story of the same name, won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film – South Africa's first Academy Award in this category. Athol’s work spans the period of apartheid in South Africa, through the first democratic elections, to Nelson Mandela’s presidency and into present-day, post-apartheid South Africa.
The recipient of numerous honorary doctorates and awards, Athol was awarded the prestigious Praemium Imperiale global arts prize for Theatre/Film by the Japan Art Association in 2014. One of the most performed playwrights in the world, he continues to direct and write plays. He shares his life with his wife the writer and academic Paula Fourie and their dog Jakkals.
The road to Mecca will run at the Fugard in early 2018 before transferring to Johannesburg. The Fugard Theatre is situated in the heart of District Six, on the corner of Harrington and Caledon Streets, Cape Town.
Tickets, which will officially go on sale from Friday 7 July 2017, can be booked through the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554.
Harrington Street car park is located at the corner of Caledon and Harrington streets and is available for the use of theatre patrons. Visit the cosy ground-floor bar, which opens two hours before all scheduled show times and stays open until last rounds are called … often as late as 1am. And if the weather is fine, the bar on the fantastic rooftop terrace is opened, with its panoramic views of the city. Both bars offer a range of wines from some of the Cape’s top estates.