Athol Fugard en Pieter-Dirk Uys gesels met Paula Fourie

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Die land het verander. Teater het verander. Maar twee mense is nog steeds op die toneel en hul albei se jongste boeke het onlangs verskyn. Paula Fourie gesels met Athol Fugard en Pieter-Dirk Uys.

PF: Pieter-Dirk en Athol, julle albei is reeds dekades lank besig om Suid-Afrikaanse stories te skep en hulle met ’n gehoor te deel. Watter gevoelens het vroeër vanjaar opgekom met die verskyning met jul nuutste publikasies – Pieter-Dirk se Stukke Teater en Athol se The Shadow of the Hummingbird – en hoe vergelyk dit met die ervaring van daardie eerste publikasie jare gelede? En aangesien die volgende vraag so nou aansluit by die eerste een, sit ek dit sommer nou ook op die tafel: Wat beteken die publikasie van ’n toneelstuk? Kan teater op die bladsy leef sowel as op die verhoog?

Pieter-Dirk Uys in study

PDU: During the ’70s and ’80s there were always brave and reckless little publishing concerns that embraced my attempts: AD Donker published a few texts that were not banned; Taurus did Die Van Aardes van Grootoor. Eventually I created an imprint Peninsula (Pen-Insular?) and produced a few – and will do it again with my new play, African Times, which opens at the NAF in July – and the audiences will get the script there and then! Too often the text of a play is only available months, if not years, after the play has been seen – that’s like getting a road map after they stole your car! So a collection (’n bundel – klink so Middeleeus!) of my five Afrikaans dramas together in one volume after a superb edit and design is a total mind f*ck – especially as three of the five went through the big bowel movements of National P*rty censorsh*p!

My pa Hannes Uys will be pleased! And so will my two tannies – tannie Anna Uys was lektrise in Afrikaans op Stellenbosch Universiteit – Hennie Aucamp was een van haar supersterstudente – en my ander tante Anna M Louw, doyenne van die Afrikaanse novelle, was altyd baie beleefd oor my Afrikaanse (soms vieslike) dramatiese graffiti. Net elke nou en dan ’n sug van “Ag Pietertjie, is daar nie iets moois waaroor jy kan skryf nie?” Ek is bly my stories in nou weer in die publieke arena, want vandag in 2015 is hulle nie politieke … (wag, my taal klink nou te dik) … they are no longer political statements as they were seen to be in the ’70s and ’80s. They are now just stories of people against a background of political upheaval and social chaos. Universal.

(Interesting footnote: The text of Selle ou Storie published by AD Donker had stage directions in English. I was heavily criticised at the time: “Dis nie ’n Afrikaanse drama nie!” – but as the Afrikaans text was banned, the English directions confused the old f*ckers. Watter taal is dit nou eintlik in?!)

Om jou tweede vraag te beantwoord:

Daar is min lesers wat ’n dramateks gemaklik kan lees. Dis regtig soos vandag: Get a new computer, and the instructions, usually translated out of Chinese into English, make you want to go back to hieroglyphics! It needs a theatrical imagination to visualise the action of a drama text, not just as it will play out on that small stage, but also as it will play out on the runway of life. But at least with the printed text the story will not get lost in the rush.

I remember how passionately we collected the Plays and Players magazines from the UK and read the supplement in the centre, which was the most recent play text from Pinter, or Ayckbourne, or an new unknown known. Sometimes theatre really shows her age – 2 000 years old and counting? – but the new technology is a botox treatment that can make so much available to that excited young mind somewhere who has read Fugard and Beckett and Orton – and wants to find more. I have put my plays on my website,, free to eye and have had wonderful feedback from all over the world. If those had been published in book form, they would probably have landed up in the local Exclusive Books sale and then not even sold. Please God, not with our new glittering Bundels!

Paula Fourie en Athol Fugard in die foyer van New York se Signature Theatre

AF: Paula, as the author of the prelude which so seamlessly introduces the little play I wrote, you could, of course, ask yourself that question as well. After all, the publication of The Shadow of the Hummingbird must surely mean as much to you as it does to me. I look forward keenly to your response with your next volley of questions. But let me try to sort out mine, which is as layered as the old-fashioned tickey-a-time rainbow cakes which my mom used to sell in her tearoom in St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.

Watter gevoelens kom by my op? Firstly, there is of course gratitude to Human & Rousseau for the opportunity to share our work with an audience of readers. Besides the obvious joys in that, this could also, of course, lead to other productions down the line, which in turn means a few more pennies in the coffers of us needy and starving playwrights shivering in our garrets.

(Natuurlik is ons sogenaamde "garret" tans ’n woonstel op die 25ste vloer van ’n gebou in Manhattan se "notorious 42nd Street", waar ek sit met whisky in die hand, maar nou ja ... ek bring ’n nuwe toneelstuk op die planke hier in New York, en soos Tennessee Williams eenkeer geskryf het: "I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.")

To get back to more serious matters: the next layer is the memory of a wave of cold and sobering doubt, a memory which I try to keep alive. It is the only way I can continue working. The Blood Knot was the first of my plays to appear in print. It was also my first play to reach a foreign audience. I remember very clearly the witheringly dismissive review with which the then reigning critic of English theatre, Kenneth Tynan, dismissed it after its London premiere. But when I received my first copy of The Blood Knot in the now long since gone Café Royal in Cape Town, I finally freed myself from Tynan’s words. The epiphany came late that night when I settled down in my apartment in Gardens, opened it and paged through it, pausing from time to time to read a few lines. When I closed the book about an hour or so later I knew quite certainly that I had found my own voice. That little book told a story that only I could tell and in a way that only I could tell it. It was that conviction that gave me the courage to tell the story of Hester and Johnnie Smit in Valley Road, Port Elizabeth – Hello and Goodbye – and Boesman and Lena on the Swartkops River mud flats. That cycle of three plays defined me for what I truly am: a regional writer. It is the only definition I welcome unhesitatingly. In elk geval, dit is nou meer as vyftig jaar later. Kenneth Tynan is al lankal in sy graf en dieselfde toneelstuk, The Blood Knot, word deesdae beskryf as ’n “modern classic”. What makes The Shadow of the Hummingbird different from that first publication is that I already know I have found my own voice ... and I am getting a little bit tired of it now.

The answer to your second question is just another layer to my rainbow cake. For me, the publication of a play is second only to its first performance on a stage in front of a live audience. It means that one has been given the chance to share one’s work in a new way with an audience of readers. When you sit in the theatre and watch a live performance the event is controlled by the unrelenting ticking of a clock. I have often described a play in performance as a time machine: the lights dim and the curtain goes up. Ninety minutes or so later the curtain comes down. There is little if any time to reflect, to go back over the moment you have just seen on stage, to judge it, enjoy it, or criticise it. The publication of a play gives the reader a chance to do that. There is, of course, no comparison between the two events, as each one potentially has its own special magic. Not every reader can make a play come alive in his or her mind, just as not every director can make a play come alive on a stage.

So daar het jy dit, Paula. Ek hoop ek het jou nou ’n goeie idee gegee van hoe ’n reënboogkoek proe ... Jy is dalk te jonk om hulle te kan onthou.

PF: First, Athol, to answer your question: The publication of The Shadow of the Hummingbird means a lot to me. I am proud of how the prelude opens up the character of Oupa and how devilishly it succeeds in blurring the lines between you and Oupa even further. The creation of that little piece allowed me to wear the hats of researcher, biographer and playwright all at the same time, all of which I find tremendously exciting. However, I was also writing lines for a character you had created, weaving those around the beautiful strands of your own life, and crafting a scene that would connect seamlessly with what you had already written. Perhaps the difference between our responses to its publication is that I only faintly hear my own voice in the prelude ... It is a whisper, not a clarion call. Given my mandate and the circumstances surrounding that first production in the USA, for better or worse, I did not think it was possible to really use it. That said, it was a wonderful journey and potent learning experience.

Dit lei my dan ook na die volgende vraag aan julle: Wat beteken dit vir ’n skrywer om sy of haar "stem" te vind? Wat sou jy, Pieter-Dirk, vandag geantwoord het op Anna M Louw se sug-wens: "Ag Pietertjie, is daar nie iets moois waaroor jy kan skryf nie?" En Athol, vier van jou toneelstukke is reeds opgevoer voordat jy The Blood Knot geskryf het. Kon jy jou stem dan nie in hulle herken nie?

This picture was taken on Blouberg beach on 11 February 1990, the day Nelson Mandela was freed from jail. Neither I nor South Africa look the same today.

PDU: Ek kan nou eers so iets beantwoord na 40 jaar van sukkel en foute. Miskien meer as om my stem te vind, is dit om my posisie te eien as die stage manager van die produksie, die treffiek-kop wat al die ander stemme probeer orkestreer tot ’n geheel. Ek is baie bang om met my entoesiasme en liefde vir dialoog al my karakters dieselfde te laat klink – almal met my stem. Hulle moet hulle eie stemme ontwikkel en beskerm. Dus sit ek met ’n orkes van stemme wat ek moet dirigeer – maar ook buite die kamer van geluid te kan staan en seker maak dat die storie nie deur al die stemme versmoor word nie. Al is ek alleen op die verhoog met ’n 110-minuut-vertoning, is daar altyd ’n groot verskil tussen my stem en die stemme van elkeen van my karakters. Hulle kom uit dieselfde mond, maar elkeen het sy eie woonstelletjie in die brein. In die begin was dit meer eenvoudig: om aandag te trek met kras geluid en bombastiese drom – en met elke heerlike vloekwoord in die toilet van ’n taal. Met vandag se vryheid van spraak is daardie kru wapens teen mooigeid nie meer nodig nie. In daardie ou mooi dae was mooiheid ’n teengif vir die realiteite van ’n regte lewe. Vandag sou ek miskien die guts gehad het om vir Anna M Louw te sê: “Tannie, shut up!”

“Mooi” is iets wat ek nooit alleenlik sou wou beskryf nie: die mooi sonsondergang, die bloeisels in die boord, die kindjie wat lag. Ek wil skryf oor die meisie wat in haar laaste oomblikke daardie sonsondergang sien, voordat sy doodgaan nadat haar geliefde haar geskiet het; die bloeisels in die boord is langsaan die draadheinings van Auschwitz; die kindjie wat lag, dink sy ouers kom terug om hom te liefkoos, maar ons weet hulle is in hegtenis geneem en daar’s niemand vir hom nie.

Waar mooi amper te kotserig is, was in iets soos The Sound of Music met al die schmaltz en lekker-sing; al die oulikheid en dierbaarheid en net elke nou en dan in die agtergrond die flits van ’n swastika en die rommel van ’n toekoms met geel sterre en grumoorde. Dit gaan oor balans. Ek probeer hou by 49% woede teenoor 51% vermaak. Ek wil my gehoor nie afskrik nie; ek wil hulle nie bedonder met preke en agendas nie. I want to offend everyone, but not all the time; that’s too exhausting.

Ek sou vandag dan vir tannie Anna M Louw ’n koppie tee maak – nee, miskien ’n stywe whisky skink – en ons sou onder die ou vyeboom sit en praat soos grootmense, nie soos stoere tante en poepbang kindjie nie. Dis waar die mooi sou ontwikkel na iets wat meer is as net daardie reuk van parfuum, of hierdie skimp van glimlag. Teater is vlees en bloed! Dis poep en praal! Dis luid en sag; dis mooi en dis onbeskryflik goor. Dis menslik. Dis ek en jy. Ons is teater, liewe tannie Anna. Nog ’n doppie, darling?

Athol Fugard in New York

AF: Eerstens wil ek praat oor die handvol toneelstukke wat voor The Blood Knot geskryf is. Vandag beskou ek hulle as my opleiding – they were, without exception, apprenticeship works. In the centuries before the creative writing courses now offered by most universities I sat at the feet of the recognised masters during that period of my writing life. I believed that the only way to learn how to do it was to apprentice yourself to a master and watch him at work.

I love the fact that the calling I chose is described as “playwright” – maker of play. It is a craft, and I make a play in much the same sense that a carpenter makes a table, a chair or a cabinet. But instead of using wood I use words. The carpenter has a rack of tools, and so do I. The masters from whom I learnt how to use mine are now enshrined in theatre’s Hall of Fame: Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Clifford Odets. Irish theatre served up a few greats as well: Sean O’Casey and, of course, Samuel Beckett. 

A good play has an internal mechanism that I often compare to a little wind-up toy mouse. You wind it up, put it down on the table, where it runs around, does a few tricks, and then stops. That’s the sort of play I like to make: 90 minutes of time and a few characters with which to tell a story. It took me a long time to realise that the first true greats of the theatre – Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides – made their plays centuries before my coming of age in the theatre, and before Beckett or O’Neill even picked up a pen. I use the phrase “coming of age”, because that is what finding my own voice in writing The Blood Knot means to me. With that play, I stopped imitating others and started to be myself. I started to create my own identity in telling the stories I wanted to tell. What it meant was that I had to go it alone in a climate that had never thought a South African story worthy of the stage.

In an early entry in one of my notebooks I describe a moment which I now know was an epiphany about finding my voice. It was the realisation, as I wrote it down in 1968, "that my life’s work was possibly just to witness as truthfully as I could, the nameless and destitute (desperate) of this one little corner of the world. This is what could be lost … those little grey bushes in the shifting sands of the dune."

Paula Fourie en Athol Fugard ná 'n oudisie

PF: Athol die timmerman en Pieter-Dirk die orkesdirigent ... Ek het iewers gelees dat orkesdirigente oor die algemeen langer lewe as diegene wat ander beroepe beoefen (ook timmermanne, maar nouja, ons sal sien). Wat maak dat jy elke keer jou gereedskap bymekaarmaak vir ’n nuwe tafel, Athol, en jy, Pieter-Dirk, telkemale die podium weer betree? En wat ek ook wil weet, is: Raak dit makliker soos die jare aanstap, of is elke poging moeiliker as die een vantevore?

Uit die blou van onse hemel ...

PDU: I like being the conductor (bus or band), although most times I am the traffic cop making sure that all the cars racing along the highway don’t crash! When I am alone on stage in a crowd of 28 characters, I have to be very focused on how I divide myself between them. I have two hands, ten fingers, one nose, one mouth, two eyes, two ears, no hair, too much tummy and happily a voice that can span three octaves. Then there is projection and body language. So which character will get what part of me? My schizophrenia helps here: Pieter is the stage manager, the technician, the practical adaptor; Dirk is the creator, the antenna to the inspirations and the ideas. The written structure is essential for the ad lib presentation to succeed. It must always look like an immediate response to an audience’s attention, never like a recital of dried ink.

“Makliker” is a symptom of a creeping paralysis. I am scared of what looks easy. Firstly that proves I’ve done it before, which means I will be repeating something not even as well as before. And secondly, “easier” means the audience is nodding along. They’ve also been there. Now that I have seen my sell-by date, all Pieter has left is the trump card of surprise. Not just for an audience of faithful followers who will mouth familiar words, but for Dirk to look back at something written and gasp: Fok! Waar kom dit vandaan!

There are some signposts that demand repetition, lines that are just too good to use in only one theatrical combination: “Hypocrisy is the Vaseline of political intercourse”; “Love your enemy, it will ruin his reputation”; “My conscience is clear because I’ve never used it” – they are glittering red shoes that can fit any dancing foot! The age of 70 is a different door to approach compared with 60. Now I know the audition is over. No need to prove anything to anyone, just improve everything for myself. Athol shows me that way. His little wind-up mouse always catches the eye of my little battery-operated cat. Happily the batteries are usually flat, so Athol’s mouse still wins every race. Maar my kitty will catch up and hopefully also pass that 80 mark.

So in spite of the experiences of all the orchestras I have conducted, the bands I have led, the solos I have supported, it is still a constant awareness that the voice within that chorus that is mine and not through the mouth of a character, must be original enough to keep the attention of the listener. Theatrical always, not just theoretical. And fun! Dear God, if what I do cannot be fun, what’s the point of a lifetime of exhausting sukkel en stroef?

Paula Fourie en Athol Fugard op die stel van The painted rocks at Revolver Creek

AF: First, as regards longevity, allow me to point out that the carpentry involved in crafting a new play is actually a very genteel pursuit compared with the wood-and-saw-and-dovetail-joints one, though of course also prone to untimely accidents. As is, I expect, the case with orchestral conducting ... or playing traffic cop as Pieter-Dirk does. I am sure he can’t dodge the cars forever, just as I sometimes can’t avoid nailing my own hand to the table.

Ek maak elke keer my gereedskap weer bymekaar, want ek is ’n kompulsiewe storieverteller. Ek móét stories vertel, net soos ek elke dag water moet drink ... of rooiwyn. Onthou jy wat ek eenkeer vir jou gesê het toe ons die eerste keer saam deur die Karoo gery het: Kyk net, ’n storie lê en wag in die koelte van elke doringboompie. Maar raak dit makliker om hulle te vind en te vertel? 

When I sit down at my desk with blank paper and my fountain pen in front of me, I am always prompted to remember Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice to a young poet: Try your best to forget all that lies behind you and approach this latest undertaking as if it was the first time you were going to put pen to paper. The inquisition of blank paper is ruthless and you need to meet it with naked honesty. Only then will your words have the ring of truth. I am, of course, a writer of fiction, so to speak of truth in that context is a little ambiguous, but I do believe that the "lies" we put down on paper have to be honest, and in this way will acquire the power of truth. Maar dit word beslis nie makliker nie – ten spyte van al my oefening is dit altyd die eerste keer – móét dit altyd die eerste keer wees. 

Pieter-Dirk Uys en Evita

PF: Hierdie dubbeldoorvraag handel oor die politiese in julle werk. Pieter-Dirk, jy beskryf jou nuutste bundel, Stukke teater, as stories oor mense teen ’n agtergrond van politiese en sosiale omwenteling. Volgens jou is hierdie toneelstukke nie meer politieke verklarings soos wat hulle destyds ter eerste opvoering was nie. Maar is die uitgee van hierdie selle stories in 2015, in die jaar van erg onderbroke elektrisiteitstoevoer, van grondgrype en van xenofobie, dan nie steeds politieke verklarings nie? Glo jy hulle het nog ’n werklike impak op die samelewing soos destyds? En Athol, ek het jou al gereeld hoor sê dat enige Suid-Afrikaanse storie uit die staanspoor politieke ondertone het, selfs (of veral) as dit ’n storie is oor mense, een wat sonder ’n politieke agenda geskryf is. Ek het ook gereeld gelees dat kritici meen jou werk keer met die jare al hoe meer na binne toe, dat dit persoonlike stories is wat nie noodwendig polities gelees kan word nie. As jy kyk na The Shadow of the Hummingbird, stem jy saam?

PDU: Die werklike impak vandag is nie noodwendig uit die politieke mynvelde van die verlede nie, maar oor die manier waarop mense/karakters sulke nagmerries kan hanteer.

Everything in South Africa has always been political, (while in the USA it has been financial and in the UK social). It’s still the oxygen of our daily breath.

During apartheid it was more specifically controlled by laws – eating together, sleeping together, love/hate/sex becoming criminal or not. Houses, words, colours, God and life were all dictated by political use and brutal control. So my plays written during that period were illuminated by the glow from those fires of suffering and protest. The audience came with the stench of the rot of our politics in their souls, either as supporters of the struggle or upholders of the status quo.

Now looking at a play written in 1976, the political headlines of then have become the small print of today, and a reminder of what it meant to live through it all. But now the lives of those people in that parade are more essential and easily recognised. We see the characters set in the 1970s in apartheid South Africa in the reality of today’s political pollution. The irony that history repeating itself by taking tragedy and turning it into farce keeps reinventing itself. (Although I think history in South Africa doesn’t repeat itself – it just rhymes: from apartheid to tripartite; for amandla to Nkandla!)

Drama swirls around the human condition that is not necessarily tied down to a single political atmosphere. Yes, a play set in Auschwitz is very specific, but the suffering is universal and timeless. Survival against the odds of society, marriage, fear, insecurity and anger can be played out through the ages and many issues. But looking at a play written 40 years ago, we now know how the political story ends. At the time of writing we didn’t. Now we can focus on how the players in that drama handle their fear and prejudice that threaten to suffocate them. Marikana, service delivery protests, xenophobia, corruption, and racism – all the toxic sprays of today merge in with the faded stenches of apartheid.

AF: There is nothing that irritates me more than the attempt by scholars and critics to tie the label “political playwright” around my big toe. I do believe that any South African story, told truthfully, has political resonances. But those resonances have never been the reason for telling a story. In the highly charged and politicised atmosphere of our country those resonances are inevitable and look after themselves. My responsibility in telling the story is to look after the man, woman or child who is inhabiting it.

And as for the personal, or biographical, in my work, even my very early plays, Boesman and Lena, for example, or The Blood Knot, have profoundly personal impulses behind them and are, in a sense, drawn from my own life. I have always said that as a writer I use my own life as a treasure chest to rummage through in the writing of a new work. It is also true that I have allowed myself in recent years to tackle my own life less obliquely – at my age there is a pressing need to reckon with myself. But this does not mean that those political resonances can or will not sound. 

The Shadow of the Hummingbird is no exception. A elderly South African man in a little room in Southern California is asked by his grandson, “Is South Africa a scary place?”, to which the old exile replies, “Yes it is, but it is also a fiercely beautiful place, and that is precisely the problem.” I tried to write about my relationship with my grandson, and look at what came out!

PF: Laastens wil ek julle terugneem na daardie aand in 1976 in Gordonsbaai na ’n vergadering van die Afrikaanse Skrywersgilde toe julle diep aan die wysheid van Tassenberg geteug het. Soos Pieter-Dirk nog goed onthou, het jy, Athol, daardie aand jou raad as medetoneelskrywer met Pieter-Dirk gedeel: "Never lose the blade with which you will cut your throat!" Vandag – amper 40 jaar later – is my vraag: Het julle albei nog daardie einste lem, en hoe skerp is dit nou?

Pieter-Dirk Uys

PDU: Dit het vir my amper ’n leeftyd gevat om uit te werk wat daardie woorde beteken het. Ek was vir so lank te bang om die waarheid te erken: oor die land, oor my Afrikaner-wees, oor my gayheid, oor my instink wat vir my altyd voorgesê het en ek nie verstaan het nie.(Sorry, must go into English now: too deep for my Taal!) I used cheap laughs in the beginning to attract attention: vloekwoorde – soos “poep” en “kak” en “moer” en “stront” – knowing that a South African audience would always laugh quickly and lavishly. They did. Maybe then I could slide the blade into the cottonwool of trivia. The shock of censorship soon made way for contempt for authority by arseholes who know nothing – that was also thanks to my father getting on to the Censorship Board and encouraging me to make fun of them and not allow them to frighten me more.

Now the disease to please has been cured. It took 60 years! My audition is over; no need to prove anything to anyone, just improve for my own self-respect and expectations. No one might even notice, but I will. The blade is no longer a Gilette, rusty and stained in the box with pencils and rubbers. It’s now a silver dagger with a golden handle in the form of a clown’s smirk and a slim shiny blade that could be one of Evita Bezuidenhout’s long and well-manicured nails. Freedom of speech is a bitch. You really have to know what you want to say, not just be able to make a noise that attracts attention because it’s illegal. Most of my work – especially the funniest stabs – have been anchored in fury – at my paralysis, my fears, my compromises, my collaborations through silence. Apartheid was an easy international target: good against evil, whites against blacks. Democracy, on the other hand, gives everyone a voice, so no longer does one echo the opinions of the banned, the imprisoned, the dead. Now it’s just my opinion for good or bad. It’s still a tango in front of a firing squad. But this time round, no bullets – just rotten tomatoes. And the targets are no longer monumental in their madness, just stunted through corruption and carelessness. Is it worth using a blade on them? Is it still essential to cut one’s throat because of them?

Athol Fugard saam met die reklamemateriaal van sy jongste toneelstuk

AF: Liewe Here, Paula, het jy geen genade nie? Trust you to, as a parting shot, throw us poor orphans of the storm into the deep end by asking us to remember a moment now shrouded in the mists of time. I do certainly remember that moment, but the question I am asking myself is: What the hell did I mean as I sat there with Pieter trying to stay afloat as I floundered around in the dregs of yet another bottle of Oom Tassies? I am prompted to remember the lines of my favourite Chinese poet, Li Po: “The truths at the bottom of the goblet will never be known to the sober.” What the hell was that Truth our booze-befuddled minds were wrestling with?

The only answer I can come up with is summed up by words that have haunted me my entire writing life: “relevance” ... and ultimately, “risk”. Just look at what has happened to our rainbow nation since Madiba stepped out of Pollsmoor prison. From that first promise of eventual racial harmony, from an environment of truth and reconciliation, to the rabid red-overall followers of Julius Malema and a president who walks around with a shower over his head.

I have experienced those decades as a time which at first gently invited me to think of retiring ... South Africa’s first literary redundancy! And yes, as you pointed out earlier, critics have been wont to remark of late that Fugard has turned inward – and The Shadow of the Hummingbird is a good example of what they think they might mean. Yet now, in this present moment, I am in New York trying once again to engage with my beloved country’s reality by way of a new play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, set in 1981 (Act I) and 2003 (Act II). I believe Pieter-Dirk, with his extraordinary gift for personal transformation, has grown in stature as he lived through the decades of “freedom”. I have no such gift. The young man who wrote The Blood Knot is now simply the much older man still wrestling with that existential dilemma that confronts all of us: What do we do with the other, that other human being with whom we are compelled to share our lives?

Het ek steeds daardie lem en is dit nog skerp? Vra my volgende week, na die openingsaand van die nuwe toneelstuk. Ek sal dalk dan ’n antwoord vir jou hê ... of jy kan self raai.

• Paula Fourie is 'n musiekwetenskaplike, dirigent, skrywer en teaterkundige.

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