Market Theatre stages Fugard’s The Train Driver

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John Kani and Dawid Minaar. Photographer: Brett Rubin
John Kani and Dawid Minaar. Photographer: Brett Rubin

Fugard@86 – Market Theatre celebrates Athol Fugard, a prolific and often produced playwright, with two plays, The Train Driver and Nongogo.

For over half century the internationally celebrated playwright Athol Fugard created iconic South African plays featuring home grown narratives. Despite South African drama’s vulnerability to censorship before 1994, he produced plays defiantly indicting the country’s apartheid’s policy. His work post-1994 has been mostly reflective and often more personal than political.

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Now resident in the USA, the giant wordsmith from the city of Port Elizabeth moved to Johannesburg in 1958, where he worked as a clerk in a Native Commissioners’ Court. It was in Johannesburg that Fugard organised, wrote and produced his early plays, No Good Friday (1958) and Nongogo (1959). The Market Theatre will present Nongogo and one Fugard’s later plays, The Train Driver (2009), in Fugard@86, a season that celebrates the iconic dramatist’s work as he turns 86 this year.

The Fugard@86 season will kick off with The Train Driver, a haunting mesmerizing and deeply personal journey into the human soul. The play was inspired by the true event of Pumla Lolwana who, in December 2000, pulled her three children close to her body and stepped in front of a train on the railway tracks between Philippi and Nyanga on the Cape Flats. The horrific situation was first captured in Fugard’s notebook, Karoo and other stories, yet it was only a while later that it was conceptualized into a play.

In Fugard’s imaginary play inspired by the horrific event, a tormented train driver is compelled to visit a makeshift graveyard in the middle of nowhere, determined to find the unmarked grave of the woman he unintentionally killed. The Train Driver directed by Charmaine Weir Smith will star award winning actor and Fugard’s long-time friend John Kani alongside Dawid Minnaar. The Train Driver will run from 4 May to 03 June 2018.

Fugard’s sobering yet entertaining play, Nongogo, about a 1950s shebeen, in which society’s misfits drink to remember and drink to forget will be directed by James Ngcobo. The production delivering a delightful and captivating piece that is rich and rife with unfulfilled hopes, dark secrets, jealousy and with flaring tempers, grim chuckles and wistful longings will feature a star-studded cast of Vusi Kune, Zikhona Sodlaka, Bongani Gumede, Zenzo Ngqobe and Peter Mashigo. Nongogo will be at the Market Theatre from 15 June to 15 July 2018.

The Market Theatre’s Fugard@86 season comprising of two of the playwright’s richly human plays that challenge his audience to confront and address social injustice will articulate why Athol Fugard remains one of the world’s most prolific and often produced playwrights.

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