Athol Fugard in the City of Roses

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THANDI XABA

Celebrated actor, director and playwright Athol Fugard will be gracing us with his phenomenal presence in his The Shadow of the Hummingbird at the Andre Huguenet Theatre, Bloemfontein.

The play which was firstly staged in America, has left its audiences appreciative of the talent and vigour Fugard displays, despite his 15 year long sabbatical.

“Audiences in Cape Town were unbelievably generous in their response to the show at our curtain calls. That has been heart warming,” he says.

This love-inspired and moving production will be showed in Bloemfontein from August 20 till August 23, to which Fugard says coming to the City of Roses is a very auspicious occasion for him.

“My first great teacher in terms of my career as a playwriter, an actor and director was Andre Huguenet and I will be playing in Bloemfontein in a theatre named after him. Andre was very important to me. I can’t tell how moving it is to think I will finally re-connect with all my memories with him in Bloemfontein,” he warmly says.

He enthused he is excited and eager to find out what has happened to Bloemfontein over the years. “When I came to Bloemfontein with some of my earlier plays we were still struggling under the apartheid regime and those were hard and very difficult years,” he says.

One might think being off stage for 15years has had a toll on Fugard, however with perfect execution, the gifted 82 year old actor says the moment he stepped onto the stage after the very first performance that took place in America, he knew what he was doing, despite his nerves.

“I thought I would be stumbling, struggling and lost but instead I just slipped into the role of an actor without any significant difficulty. It is a role that demands a lot of energy from me, I am an octogenarian now but I am coping,” he says.

With over 50 years in the arts, he says he envies the young people today in theatre because they actually get specific training in the theatre craft and arts, which he had none.

The Shadow of the Hummingbird is inspired by his 11year old grandson Gayvn to which he says, “From the day he was born, he has just been such a rejuvenating, gloriously alive and provocative presence in my life. Whether it was when we started killing dragons together in games we made up or him standing next to me on the beach fishing with me, my debt of gratitude to that young life and what it has done to my old life is enormous.”

Inspired by love Fugard says, “Love is a very powerful force that can grip you and make you do things in the right way. Love is really the only truly creative energy I have in my life. And when I am motivated by it I get it right, if I don’t love it’s going to be failure.”