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Wednesday, May 28, 2014


(Tshepang Koloko as Boesman & Sade Wagner as Lena)

Truly engaging and powerful theatre, highly recommended. (Review by Louise Buchler)

Boesman and Lena has been described as a story about “Two lonely squatters trapped in a struggle for freedom and dignity during apartheid” – yet Fugard’s masterpiece is so much more. Written in 1969 and inspired by a random encounter between Fugard and a homeless woman, this play remains as relevant and universal in 2014 as it was when it was first staged.

The play tells the story of Boesman and Lena, two squatters who have been driven from their shanty town by bulldozers. After walking for miles, they set up camp on the Swartkop mudflats outside of Port Elizabeth. At first, they appear to embody the stereotype of heavy drinking drifters but as the play progresses, Fugard exposes a series of complex issues that impact the central characters. They are trapped in a never ending cycle of poverty and disempowerment.

Lena longs for someone to “see” her – to bear witness to the violence and sadness she suffers at the hands of Boesman who uses her as a punching bag to vent his own feelings of self-loathing and shame. They have been forgotten by society, tossed out like rubbish, trying to carve out a life for themselves in the direst of circumstances. The relationship between the two is brought to a head with the arrival of another homeless man, Outa. Lena immediately identifies him as a possible ally – someone to acknowledge her. However, Fugard injects a painful dose of irony in the fact that Outa cannot speak English or Afrikaans and does not understand a word that is said to him by the desperate Lena, who finds in him a captive audience.

This production of Boesman and Lena is skillfully and sensitively directed by UKZN honours student, Brenda-Lee Cele and brought to life by a young, yet talented cast comprising Tshepang Koloko as Boesman, Sade Wagner as Lena and Musa Nkomo as Outa.

A sparse set and minimal props accompanied by simple lighting means that there is no veneer for the actors to hide behind and in such an environment, weak performances would be glaringly obvious; however, the performers play their roles with aplomb, focus and maturity.

Koloko’s sensitive portrayal of Boesman wields enough rage and restraint to capture the character’s sense of despair and self loathing and Nkomo’s portrayal of Outa is mesmerizing. Wagner’s nuanced depiction of Lena is particularly noteworthy in its ability to capture the raw vitality and emotion of the character without resorting to melodrama.

Revisiting the play, I was struck by its relevance in 2014 – the hand of power has shifted and yet the class divide remains. As long as people are disempowered and disenfranchised by poverty, Fugard’s story will remain as potent and thought-provoking as it is now, 35 years after its inception. Don’t miss this opportunity to see some truly engaging and powerful theatre. Highly recommended.

Boesman and Lena runs until May 31 at 19h00 at the Hexagon Studio Theatre, Pietermaritzburg. Tickets R55 (R45 students, pensioners) available at the door or bookings by emailing

Boesman and Lena is presented in association with Prompt Side Productions and the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT) through Nedbank Arts Affinity. -  Louise Buchler