Review of the play The Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard

the road to mecca

the road to mecca

The Road to Mecca, Athol Fugard
(A play in To Acts; suggested by the life and work of Helen Martins in New Bethesda)
Athol Fugard, born Harold Athol Lanigan Fugard in Middleburg, Eastern Cape, South Africa 11 June 1932 is a South African playwright, novelist, actor and director, best known for his political plays opposing the South African system of Apartheid, with notable work (s) Master Harold and the Boys (1982), The Blood knot (1961 and later revised in 1987) and Sizwe Bansi is Dead (1972).
The Road to Mecca is a play set in the autumn of 1974 in a small isolated Karoo village, Nieu Bethedsa in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The main character being Miss Helen (Helen Martins, an Artist), her friend Elsa Barlow a restless young urban school teacher from Cape Town, disgusted with the state of South Africa at the time and Marius Bylveld, a provincial minister in the New Bethesda for whom the status quo is a as sacred as holy writ. The play is set in two acts.
The play is about Miss Helen, an artist, approaching a very frail stage in her life, where the community is not only concerned about the strange individual she is, because of the odd art (statues) in her garden, but has also grow to be concerned about her ability to continue to take care of herself.  Athol covers various issues that were happening in the South African context at the time, especially in the other two characters, Elsa Barlow, a controversial teacher at the time whom was against the Apartheid system and wasn’t fearful of airing her opinion and the Minister, Marius Bylveld, whom believes everything should be done as per the system. As one reads the play, one begins to realise that the play not only encompasses the darkness of Apartheid South Africa, but the darkness in which we all carry in ourselves. Athol Fugard, illustrates how Miss Helen, although literally becoming blind, is slowly withering away into darkness, in her frail hands, the house she lives in and how little she takes physical care of herself and the darkness of the people in the community in which she resides against her.
A short read, but bares volumes of insight into the history of South Africa and the different perceptions and experiences of it, be it religion, art or confining to the norm, which Athol Fugard successfully portrays throughout this play.
First published in 1985 in Great Britain by Whitstable Litho Ltd., Whitstable, Kent
IBN 0-571-13691-5
Mody Khabele

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