South African apartheid play to tour the North East during Black History Month

A poignant play set during the end of apartheid and a month before the release of Nelson Mandela is being performed across North East theatres during Black History Month.

Playland, by Athol Fugard, features only two characters – Martinus Zoeloe, a black night watchman and Gideon le Roux, a white former soldier – and is set in a run-down South African amusement park on New Year’s Eve 1989.

The play uses the characters – both of whom are struggling to come to terms with different violent pasts – to explore their similarities and differences in a racially divided world.

Playland is being brought to the region next month (October) by theatre company Elysium. Actor Faz Singhateh, who plays Martinus, believes the plot will resonate with audiences today, of every age.

He said: “I think that younger audiences will get this play because of what is happening politically now with Brexit. We are divided about what to do now, there is a massive distrust on both camps. Older audiences will also remember this time in history of apartheid.

“What people will take from this play is that there is hope, Playland offers a tonic that peace is possible.  I think that this is a play of reconciliation, and of what we are capable of if we sit and listen to each other.

“Both characters talk ‘at’ each other, and it is only at the end when they begin to listen and say ‘what can we do?’ and walk off as friends.

“If we can take two characters – one black one white – who have been isolated and feel angry, and they can come to some form of understanding, then there is hope for us all.”

Playland, set four years before South Africa’s first free elections, will tour the region for the very first time, coinciding with Black History Month in October.

It will be performed at Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham, on October 16-17 and The Exchange, North Shields, on October 18.

It will then head to the City Theatre, Durham, from 24-26 October and then the Hullabaloo Space, the Hippodrome, Darlington, on Sunday 3 November.

Faz, 52, added: “Black History Month throws up a beautiful magnifying glass to the celebration of black writing, literature and society. It is a massive celebration of how far we have come with accepting people, it is a positive step.”

Durham-based Elysium was founded in 2017 by director and actor Jake Murray, son of the late Braham Murray, and actor Danny Solomon, who plays former soldier Gideon le Roux.

Director Jake said: “Playland is a dark and beautiful play about our capacity to heal ourselves through acceptance – acceptance of ourselves and other people.

“In a time when countries are redefining themselves along lines of race, religion and culture, Playland is a powerful reminder of what that path leads to, as well as a tribute to the power of the human spirit.

“I am really looking forward to bringing this wonderful piece of theatre to the North East.”

Elysium has collaborated with the Queen’s Hall, Hexham, on Playland, which will feature Q&As with the show’s director and cast after each performance, at every venue.

The theatre company aims to bring the best of world theatre to the north of England, ensuring it is accessible and affordable to all.

For more information on Elysium and their productions, find them on social media at @ElysiumTC.

To buy tickets for Playland go to www.elysiumtc.co.uk.