The Island was written in 1973 by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, three leading figures in South African theatre. Dedicated to those imprisoned during the fight to end apartheid, the play describes the conditions at Robben Island, the notorious apartheid-era prison whose most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, was incarcerated there for 22 years.
The two-hander was first staged in London at the Royal Court in 1974 and, in its original incarnation, also toured internationally and won numerous awards, including Tonys for the two actors.
It was revived by the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, and brought to the National in January 2000 for a limited season of 20 performances, with Kani and Ntshona recreating their performances and Fugard directing. The production attracted critical acclaim and quickly sold out, even after the National hastily added another 16 performances in April.
The three men are reunited once again for The Island's West End season, which is produced by Lee Menzies.
- by Terri Paddock