"Master Harold"...and the Boys

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"Master Harold"...and the Boys
Master Harold and the Boys Penguin.jpg
Penguin Books edition
Written by Athol Fugard
Characters Hally
Sam
Willie
Date premiered 1982
Place premiered Yale Repertory Theatre
New Haven, Connecticut
Original language English
Subject A student moves from childhood innocence to poisonous bigotry.
Genre Drama
Setting St. Georges Park Tea Room, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. 1950.

"Master Harold"...and the Boys is a play by Athol Fugard. It was first produced at the Yale Repertory Theatre in early 1982 and made its premiere on Broadway on 4 May at the Lyceum Theatre, where it ran for 344 performances. The play takes place in South Africa during apartheid era, and depicts how institutionalized racism, bigotry or hatred can become absorbed by those who live under it.

The play was initially banned from production in South Africa.[1]

Plot[edit]

Seventeen year-old Hally spends time with two middle-aged African servants, Sam and Willie, whom he has known all his life. On a rainy afternoon, Sam and Willie are practicing ballroom steps in preparation for a major competition. Sam is quickly characterized as being the more worldly of the two. When Willie, in broken English, describes his ballroom partner (his girlfriend) as lacking enthusiasm, Sam correctly diagnoses the problem: Willie beats her if she doesn't know the steps.

Hally then arrives from school. Sam is on an equal intellectual footing with Hally; Willie, for his part, always calls the white boy "Master Harold." The conversation moves from Hally's school-work, to an intellectual discussion on "A Man of Magnitude", to flashbacks of Hally, Sam and Willie when they lived in a Boarding House. Hally warmly remembers the simple act of flying a kite Sam had made for him out of junk; we later learn that Sam made it to cheer Hally up after he was embarrassed greatly by his father's drunkenness. Conversation then turns to Hally's 500-word English composition. The play reaches an emotional apex as the beauty of the ballroom dancing floor ("a world without collisions") is used as a transcendent metaphor for life.

Almost immediately despair returns: Hally's tyrannical father has been in the hospital because of medical complications due to the leg he lost in World War II, but it appears that today he is coming home. Hally is distraught about this news, since his father being home will make home life unbearable. He unleashes on his two black friends years of anger, pain and vicarious racism from his father, creating possibly permanent rifts in his relationship with them. For the first time, apart from hints throughout the play, Hally begins explicitly to treat Sam and Willie as subservient help rather than as friends or playmates, insisting that Sam call him "Master Harold" and spitting on him, among other things. Sam is hurt and angry but understands that Hally is really causing himself the most pain.

There is a glimmer of hope for reconciliation at the end, when Sam addresses Hally by his nickname again and asks to start over the next day, hearkening back to the simple days of the kite. Hally responds "It's still raining, Sam. You can't fly kites on rainy days, remember," then walks out into the rain. The play ends while Sam and Willie console each other by ballroom dancing together.

Casting History[edit]

The principal casts of notable productions of Master Harold... and the Boys

Production/Role Hally Sam Willie
1982 Yale Repertory Željko Ivanek Zakes Mokae Danny Glover
1982 Original Broadway Lonny Price Zakes Mokae Danny Glover
2003 Broadway Revival Christopher Denham Danny Glover Michael Boatman
2012 South African Revival[2] Alex Middlebrook Tshamano Sebe Themba Mchunu
2013 South African Revival (in Afrikaans) Hennie Jacobs Terence Bridgette Christo Davids

Ivanek left to make the film The Sender in 1982, which is why he was replaced by Price.

The Afrikaans version was translated by Idil Sheard as Master Harold en die Boys.

Adaptations[edit]

1985 film[edit]

Fugard adapted the play for a television movie produced in 1985, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg with stars, Matthew Broderick, Zakes Mokae, and John Kani.

2010 film[edit]

A filmed version of the play was produced in South Africa in 2009 starring Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland) as Hally and Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction, Mission Impossible 1–3) as Sam. The film was directed by Emmy Award-winning director Lonny Price (who played Hally in the original Broadway cast) and produced by Zaheer Goodman-Bhyat, Mike Auret, Nelle Nugent and David Pupkewitz.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards
  • 1982 Drama Desk Award Outstanding New Play
  • 1983 London Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Play
  • 1983 London Evening Standard Award for Best Play
Nominations
  • 1982 Tony Award for Best Play

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Master Harold...and the Boys" (Press release). The Colony Theatre Company. 26 September 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  2. ^ Fick, David."BWW Reviews: New 'MASTER HAROLD' Production at the Fugard Packs an Emotional Punch" BroadwayWorld, March 26, 2013

Further reading[edit]

  • Fugard, Athol (1982). "Master Harold"-- and the Boys (First edition ed.). New York: A.A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-52874-3. 

External links[edit]