The Township Plays By Athol Fugard

1014 words - 4 pages

It is evident that Athol Fugard's desire in his earlier years was to highlight the grievances and hardships of the Africans in the townships, rather than showcase his talent as a playwright. His plays were less about art and more about social action. His earliest plays, No Good Friday and Nongogo sought to enlighten the white South African public about the nature of the apartheid system. Rather than the plays being a form of art, Fugard's main goal was to highlight the nuances of the apartheid system and use the issues, ideologies and idiosyncrasies, elevating it to a level of art. In other words, theatre was Fugard's form of protest. His characters and ideas were used to effectively bring across his message.In Fugard's two earliest plays, people from all angles of the apartheid system are presented. As a result of Fugard's portrayal of these characters, a clearer understanding of the system is created. An exposition of the intimacies of reaction within the African townships is presented in the plays. We are introduced to and are able to observe the dreamers, workers, opportunists and white liberalists. Each serves a particular purpose and has a struggle peculiar to him or her. The dreamers show that the plight of the black man is a helpless one. In No Good Friday, Guy, a talented musician is unable to fulfill his dream of having a well paying job as a musician because the white employers are not interested in his music. He is only provided with the option to work as a kitchen boy. As a result he is 'blowing the sax on an empty stomach'. Even his friends seem uninterested in his dreams because they know that they are hopeless ones. When Guy finally gets a chance to have his own solo he is overjoyed because this rarely ever happens to him. However, it is only a temporary job and he will be forced to return to his previous situation. His talent will be wasted and his dreams unfulfilled. Another dreamer is Tobias. He enters Sophiatown full of hope and believes that he will find a good job and be able to provide for his wife and children at home. Willie, who has had a rude awakening and has come to terms with the fact that his dreaming was a waste of time, hates Tobias because he reminds him of the dreams he once had as a child. Upon Tobias's arrival, Willie knows that a dreadful fate awaits him. Eventually Tobias dies with his goals and dreams unfulfilled. He is the result of how inhumane and horrible life is in the townships. In Nongogo, Johnny is full of ideas and dreams. When he finally believes that he has found a means of obtaining them, he is delighted. His desire to own a haberdashery shows that the South Africans in the townships at one point have a passion to leave their current situation. He would like to achieve his own goal and earn his own money instead of being exploited by white employers....

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