Harold Athol Fugard

Names: Fugard, Harold Athol

Born: 11 June 1932, Middleburg, South Africa

In summary: South African playwright, actor, and novelist world famous for his cutting portrayal of apartheid

Athol Fugard, born Harold Athol Lanigan Fugard in the remote village of Middleburg on 11 June 1932, grew up in Port Elizabeth. His father was Afrikaner and his mother English-speaking.

Fugard enrolled at the University of Cape Town but did not finish his studies, dropping out to travel in Africa and the world. He found work on a ship, and travelled around the world for two years before returning home. He found a job as a court clerk and through this was able to witness the destruction on humans by the apartheid system.

Athol Fugard started writing after a brief spell at acting. His first work in theatres was a piece called the The Rehearsal Room. Fugard wrote, acted, and directed this play which with its multiracial cast openly rejected segregation in South African theatres. This led to most of his works being banned by the government.

In 1958, Fugard produced No Good Friday. In this play Fugard shared the stage with Zakes Mokae. This play was followed by Nongogo (Prostitute) in 1959. In the 1960s, Fugard returned to Port Elizabeth where he partnered with The Serpent Players. The following year he wrote his first international success The Blood Knot. This play confronted apartheid so effectively that the government withdrew his passport.

However, this did not stop Fugard from supporting an international boycott against South Africa. The government later relaxed the restriction, allowing him to visit England to direct a play he had written, Boesman and Lena. Another play, A Lesson from Aloes won him an international award in 1980 from the New York Critics Circle.

Even though Fugard is lesser known in South Africa, his plays have attracted the attention of actors Danny Glover and James Earl Jones, who acted in The Blood Knot and Master Harold …and the Boys.

Fugard is an accomplished actor, having played Jan Smuts in the famous film Gandhi. He continues to write and act, his latest work being The Captain’s Tiger published in 1999.

A list of Fugard’s Plays:

1958 No-Good Friday

1959 Nongogo (Prostitute)

1961 The Blood Knot, updated as Blood Knot in 1985

1965 Hello and Goodbye

1968 People are living there

1969 Boesman and Lena

1971 Orestes

1972 Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act

1968 Sizwe Bansi is Dead improvised by Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona

1973 The Island

1975 Dimetos (revised 1976)

1978 A Lesson from Aloes

1982 Master Harold…and the boys

1984 The Road to Mecca

1985 Blood Knot (revised as, The Blood Knot)

1987 A Place with the Pigs

1989 My Children! My Africa!

1993 Playland

1996 A Valley Song

1999 The Captain's Tiger

References