A little background information on Athol Fugard, playwright of PLAYLAND, running at PT until November 27th.
A South African playwright, he's been challenging the politics of his country his entire life, with earlier works that often centred directly around the themes of apartheid.
Born to English and Afrikaner parents in Middleburg, South Africa in 1932, Fugard became keenly aware of the injustices of apartheid when he moved to Johannesburg in 1958. There he began a multiracial theatre group, writing, producing, directing, and acting in several plays. This began a long career of politically charged theatre that put him in direct opposition with the national government. To avoid persecution, Fugard later had the majority of his plays produced and published outside South Africa. He didn’t, however, shy away from making a stand in his home county. In 1962 he publicly supported the Anti-Apartheid Movement, an international boycott of South African theatres and their segregated audiences.
In the 1960’s Fugard formed a new theatre group, The Serpent Players. Named after their first venue, an old snake pit at a zoo, The Serpent Players featured a group of black actors performing for poor migrant labourers and residents of “coloured” areas in different venues every night. The work of Bertolt Brecht was a powerful influence on The Serpent Players’ work: they performed an all-black production of his play Caucasian Chalk Circle and made frequent use of Brecht’s techniques of gestic acting, the A-effect, and social critique. Their most Brechtian productions are considered to be Sizwe Bansi is Dead and The Island, plays in which the participants were reported to not only represent social relationships on stage, but to revise their dealings with each other and institutions of apartheid – a possible testament to Brecht’s ideal of abolishing separation between player and audience.
He wrote Playland in 1993, just before the final abolishment of apartheid. It is one of the last of his political plays, as his later work became more personal in nature.