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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Playwright tells of post-apartheid drama
Athol Fugard on stage
Athol Fugard has worked internationally as author, director and actor
Playwright Athol Fugard, a veteran of the anti-apartheid movement, has said he has had to adapt his art for the "new" South Africa.

"I have found my voice in the new South Africa"

Athol Fugard
After South Africa's first multi-racial elections in 1994, he feared that his plays would become redundant.

Recognising that he was a "storyteller, not a politician," he told BBC World Service's Art in Action programme how he realised that his talent lay in his ability to tell people's stories.

Success, he said, relied on "the reach that your imagination can make into somebody else's situation."


Sorrows and Rejoicings, his latest play, recently opened in London.

In it, he refers to a new South Africa as he examines the relationships left behind by a white poet who, returning from exile, must now confront his own imminent death.

Despite dealing with the uncertainties of a new order, Sorrows and Rejoicings also displays autobiographical elements.

Sorrows and Rejoicings poster, courtesy of the Tricycle Theatre, London
Sorrows and Rejoicings is currently showing in London

Fugard detailed how in his view it is impossible to separate personal and external influences when writing a play.

"The stories that have compelled me to set about writing a new play have always occurred when they offered me an opportunity to unburden myself," he explained.

"In one form or another I am there on stage... I am there all the time. It's shocking - it's a gallery of self-portraits."


Fugard's plays have been characterised by their sparse scenery and limited props, a result the writer claimed of often performing in "poor theatres".

In his own words his portable style of theatre is best described as, "a very light agile, pure striking force."

Despite modestly describing himself as a "regional" writer, with ground-breaking plays such as The Blood Knot and The Island, Fugard has been described by critics as the man who "dramatised apartheid".


Since the 1950s Fugard's plays controversially gave a voice to political conflict.

Works such as Sizwe Bansi is Dead, The Road to Mecca and The Captain and the Tiger told passionately about the inequality of life.

Having refused an exit permit at the height of the conflict,the writer currently chooses to divide his time between teaching and writing in the USA and Africa.

Although he has achieved a successful career outside of South Africa, he has remained fascinated by the impact that exile had on silencing the artists from his homeland.

His new drama focuses on a changing society seen through the eyes of an exiled Afrikaner poet.

"With this play," he recently said, "I have found my voice in the new South Africa. It's the most aptly named play of them all: sorrows for the old South Africa, rejoicings for our new democracy."

Athol Fugard speaks to Arts In Action
"In one form or another I am there on stage"
See also:

25 Jan 02 | Reviews
The Island's moving tale
14 Apr 00 | Africa
Coetzee wins second book award
06 Aug 01 | Africa
Nigeria's Soyinka back on stage
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