The Island (pictured) 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 27 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 of last year.
In Sorrows and Rejoicings, Fugard explores the legacy of apartheid as it affects two women - one white, the other black. On the surface they seem to have little in common except their love of one man, a white poet attached to the land of Karoo and the peoples of his birth. This story moves between the past and the present, with the writer reliving his years in exile, and his eventual return to the new South Africa.
Sorrows and Rejoicings is designed by Susan Hilferty, with lighting by Mannie Manim. The cast features Amrain Ismail-Essop, Denise Newman, Jennifer Steynn, and Marius Weyers.
The two Fugard pieces add to the growing collection of high-profile South African productions in London, including the song and dance show Umoja currently at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and The Mysteries, which transfers to the Queen's Theatre in February.
- by Terri Paddock