Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wits Theatre and Wits School of Arts/Dramatic Art present Athol Fugard's No Good Friday

The Wits School of Art, Division of Dramatic Art, is staging a student production of Athol Fugard’s No Good Friday in the Wits Downstairs Theatre (an experimental black-box venue). A South African classic, the play will be directed by Dr Samuel Ravengai, a senior lecturer within the department. No Good Friday was first performed on 30 August 1958, in the Johannesburg Bantu Men’s Social Centre by Athol Fugard with Cornelius Mabaso, Gladys Sibisi, Bloke Modisane, Preddie Ramphele, Stephen Moloi, Ken Gampu, Daniel Poho, Mike Mokone, Zakes Mokae and Sol Rachilo, most of whom became luminaries in South African theatre.

Dr Ravengai says, “Our intentions in this project are two-fold. No Good Friday of 1958 was a break-through for South African theatre because of its creativity and its multiracial nature that produced theatre leaders. Our staging of the play is undertaken with the same spirit of nurturing a group of young South Africans, in this case, Wits Drama students: training them in directing, acting and production skills so that, like their predecessors, they can lead South African theatre in the future. The second reason is to see how South Africans, notorious for our fear of the past, respond to that ugly history, narrated in a love story, in the here and now.”

The play grapples with three issues; love, dreams and murder! Rebecca is a young woman in love with Willie, who is on the verge of realising his dream of becoming a black intellectual by graduating with a BA degree. When he is about to finish his degree, he realises that all the benefits that were supposed to accrue to him were just a pipe dream. He loses his mind and his love for Rebecca. He despairs of life, questions the existence of God and the notion that education could be as important as the pursuit of freedom.

His pessimism is all pervasive as he questions the notion of “doing good” in an existence that seems not to reward goodness - maybe freedom lies elsewhere? While grappling with this dilemma, a murder is committed right on Willie’s doorstep by Shark, the local Mafia Boss whose charming exterior belies a violent nature. The protection racket run by Shark conducts its operations every Friday evening. There is no ‘happy’ Friday as Shark causes havoc by intimidating every resident into paying a ‘protection fee’. When this rule of the jungle results in the murder of Tobias, ethical and religious dilemmas emerge. Should he be reported to the police where he holds ‘shares’ or will there be merely another murder to silence the uproar?  The answers to these questions lie in the production of No Good Friday.

The director, Samuel Ravengai, joined the Wits School of Art in January 2014 after ten years of lecturing and directing for theatre and television in Zimbabwe. He is a University of Cape Town graduate where he completed his MA in Directing with distinction in 2002 and his PhD in Theatre and Performance in 2012. While at UCT he wrote and directed On the Brink and the much acclaimed Trauma Centre. He is also a performer and played Philemon in Can Themba’s The Suit which won the Marta best production award at the Setkani/Encounter Festival in Brno, the Czech Republic in 2001. He has directed productions that participated at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA). Within the Wits division of Dramatic Art, he teaches across a range of theory and practical courses covering directing, acting, writing, drama and film. No Good Friday marks his theatre debut in Johannesburg.
Free parking is available in Senate House; the entrance is on Jorissen Street, Braamfontein
PRODUCTION: No Good Friday, written by Athol Fugard and directed by Samuel Ravengai
VENUE: Wits Downstairs Theatre, East Campus, Braamfontein
SEASON:  Tuesday 23 – Tuesday 1 October 2014: Tue 23 Sep @ 19:30 (Opening), Wed 24 Sep (public holiday, no performance); Thursday 25 September [WitsTix] @ 19:30, Fri 26 Sep @ 19.30, Sat 27 Sep @ 14:00 & 19:00, Tue 30 Sep @ 19:30  Wednesday 1 October @ 19:30.
RUNNING TIME: Sixty minutes no interval.
Full price online = R 45:00; discounts for pensioners and students online = R 30:00
Full price at the door = R 50:00; discounts for pensioners and students at the door = R 40:00
WitsTix = R 10:00 online and R 15:00 at the door:

ENQUIRIES: 011 717 1376 /  
For updates please visit                                           
Released on behalf of Wits Theatre by: Cathy Pisanti 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

No Good Friday takes off with Auditions at the Wits School of Arts

Samuel Ravengai 2014
Auditions for the Athol Fugard play, No Good Friday, kicked off Tuesday the 13th of May under the watchful eye of the director, Samuel Ravengai. It is envisaged that rehearsals will begin on 21 July 2014, the opening day of the second semester until the opening night on 23 September. Students started preparing for the auditions since Monday the 5th of May. They have auditioned for 11 roles which the director delineated as follows:

Rebecca is a black female in her early twenties. She has been living in with Willie for four years. She is a patient and hopeful lady; very adroit in conversation and comforting to friends in distress, including Willie. By the end of the story, she is sick and tired of Willie, but deeply in love. She is morally upright

Guy is a black township musician who is able to play the saxophone or pen-whistle and is extremely talented. He is a loyal friend of Willie, given to counselling him and laying off his burdens on Willie’s girlfriend, Rebecca. He is focussed on job hunting and is a man of sober habits; in his mid-twenties.

Watson is a township politician, who can be black or coloured. He is in his early thirties. He is an obscure character who leads a strong trade union, although he doesn’t seem to have a job. He believes in making sacrifices for the good of all, but has not been seen in street demonstrations. No one, including his friends, knows how he makes a living. He is always carrying a briefcase and smartly dressed.

Willie is an educated black young man in his early 30s. He is a BA correspondent, very smart and independent in thinking. This independence which inheres in him makes him seek more solitude than communal engagement. He is a hater of blackness and all that it represents. He has despaired on life, is hopeless and deflates the hope that tends to grow in others. He knows his rights and is courageous, even in the face of death.

The only white character in the play is Father Higgins who is a catholic with liberal views. For that reason he is a lover of blacks and has become a local celebrity.

Tobias can be described as rustic. He has a strong rural background. Physically, he is always blanket-clad, is ‘unsophisticated’, but intelligent in all matters relating to his rural world. He is in his late thirties.

Another interesting character is Pinkie, a Sophiatown backyard boy, who is in his early 20s. He is given to drinking and womanising. Has a quick temper which easily degenerates into hysteria. He is a volatile character, but without courage. Lily-livered boy!

Peter, another backyard character, is simple, but philosophical in some kind of way. He is a good listener, given to less talking. His concentration levels are very high.

Moses is the eldest character in the play. He is a 50 year old blind man more like Tobias. He has been living in the city for 10 years, but has a solid country background. He is an ardent listener, a family man who lives away from his family. He earns a living from begging on the pavements of Sophiatown.

Shark, in his mid-30s, is the most feared character in the play. He is a coloured/black township gangster. He is the rational side of Harry, his accomplice. He tries to moralise everything in order to appear better than Harry. An arrogant and egoistic character who cannot be pushed by anyone. He has a network of criminals that includes the police.

Harry deputises Shark and is a black/coloured who is about 20 years old. He is Shark’s accomplice and can be described as representing the impulsive and irrational side of Shark. He is a man of action and few words.

The eleventh character is a nameless thug in his 20s. He is a vicious transient character; the killing machine of the gang.

No Good Friday was first performed in Johannesburg in 1958 at what was then called the Bantu Men’s Social Centre. Athol Fugard played the character, Father Higgins, using an undercover name, Hal Lannigan, to evade police detection. He also directed it. When the play moved to a segregated theatre, Brooke Theatre, on 17 September 1958, the cast had to be all-black and Lewis Nkosi played Father Higgins. Since then, it has been performed several times. The Division of Drama of the Wits School of Arts wants to bring back this 1950s play and see how it is going to be received in the New South Africa.