national Arts Festival Banner

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


(Caitlan Kilburn as Lena and Rory Booth as Boesman)

Athol Fugard’s classic story of two coloured people trapped in a struggle for freedom and dignity set during apartheid South Africa, is to be staged at the Catalina Theatre, Wilsons Wharf for a season designed primarily as a study aid to high school learners

Directed by Daisy Spencer and starring Rory Booth and Caitlan Kilburn in the title roles, with Mthokozisi Zulu as “Outa”, this production takes place in the course of a single evening, following Boesman and Lena’s story as they journey across the mudflats of the Swartkops River near Port Elizabeth, carrying all their belongings, as they have been uprooted from their home which has been bulldozed by the white authorities in order to drive them and other blacks and coloureds in the segregated settlement further away from their white neighbours.

Fugard described an encounter he had that influenced the creation of Boesman and Lena: on a hot August day in 1965, Fugard and two friends were driving along a rural road when they saw an old woman trudging along with all of her worldly possessions tied up in a bundle on her head. They stopped and offered her a ride. She cried at their unexpected kindness, and during the fifteen-mile trip to a farm up the road, she told them about the death of her husband three days earlier and her nine missing children.

If Fugard and his companions hadn't stopped to offer her a ride, she would have followed her plan to sleep in a stormwater drain that night and continue her long journey the next day.

Boesman and Lena premiered in Grahamstown at the Rhodes University Little Theatre in 1969 with Fugard himself in the role of Boesman and Yvonne Bryceland as Lena. Glyn Day, a white actor, played the part of Outa in blackface. When the curtain rang down at the end of the play there was a moment of silence and then followed round after round of applause from the distinguished first-night audience. The cast took eight curtain calls.

Daisy Spencer says this about the current production: “If you have ever had the fortune of meeting a coloured person, I’m sure you will agree that we are a very special, amusing and interesting race. Yet as unique as we are, we are constantly conflicted by our lack of a sense of belonging. We metamorphosise into whomever we need to be to entertain the people we are surrounded by, which often leaves us unsure of who we really are. Yes, race is one of the themes Boesman and Lena highlights, but far beyond this, Athol Fugard presents two people whose pain and suffering is as stark as their surroundings, made worse by man's cruelty to man - the secret pain we all inflict upon each other in our closest relationships. It is a struggle to find the strength it takes to break free from what holds one back from finding out who one really is, and more importantly, what one's value is”.

Presented by Catalina UnLtd, Boesman & Lena runs from February 27 to March 16 at Catalina Theatre. Public performances Fridays and Saturdays at 20h00 (Sundays at 18h00) and for School Groups weekdays at 11h00. Tickets R75 (R60 pensioners). Schools R45 per scholar (one teacher free for every 10 scholars). Bookings on or 031 305 6889.

The Catalina Theatre is still functioning thanks to the generosity and support from Rainbow Chicken Farms, the Ethekwini Municipality and the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund.