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Hello and Goodbye by Athol Fugard, Elysium Theatre Company Online

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Im a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. My debut poetry pamphlet is available at
Event: -
Home alone
I regret to say that I was not aware of the South African playwright Athol Fugard until I saw Elysium Theatre Company's production of Playland in Salford's Media City, November 2019.

Elysium are back with another Fugard play this time performed in front of a socially distanced audience at Northern School of Art, Hartlepool on 23 June and available online until 30 June.

The play, directed by Jake Murray, opens with Johnnie Smit (Danny Solomon) alone in a decrepit room with ragged curtains, blotches on the wall and a hole which approximates to the shape of the African continent.

Drama, Theatre, Hope Mill Theatre, Jake Murray, Elysium Theatre Company, Athol Fugard, Hannah Ellis Ryan, Danny Solomon, Northern School of Art, Hartlepool
Danny Solomon and Hannah Ellis Ryan rehearse 'Hello and Goodbye' in Hexham. Photo by RusbyMedia.

It is 'Friday something . . . 1963' and Johnnie recalls random memories and recites counting exercises to test his sanity. "Am I going mad? I know I'm mad" he says to no one in particular.

Into this lonely world arrives Hester his sister who left 12 years ago, when she was 22-years-old. 57a Valley Road is the kind of place anyone would want to escape from, so why is Hester returning. Is she even real or a figment of Johnnie's traumatised imagination?

In contrast to his lyrical and elliptical style, Hester speaks in short, rapid-fire sentences which make no secret of her resentment at her 'poor white' upbringing - "walls that rattle and a roof that leaks."

Johnnie asks her to keep her voice down because their invalid Father is asleep in the next room. Hester lights another cigarette and makes it clear that she is only back for her share of the house and the compensation their father received for an industrial accident.

There are fleeting glimpses from Hannah Ellis Ryan of the character she played, in Coronation Street, who impersonated Liz McDonald's (Beverley Callard) daughter, in the hope of scamming money.

As they argue and unburden themselves of childhood memories, something approaching reconciliation and mutual care emerges between them.

There are undoubtedly echoes of other great modern dramatists in Fugard's familial themes and the dramatic devices he uses. However, hearing lines delivered in Fugard's native speech rhythms and idiom gave the action a fresh perspective for me, as did the context of South African poverty, which is something we do not often see portrayed on stage.

Let us hope that Athol Fugard's work continues to be produced in the UK. Elysium are scheduled to stage his 1973 drama The Island, next year

Hello and Goodbye has an approximate running time of 1 hour 45 minutes including an interval. Only one ticket needs to be purchased for a group viewing. Elysium suggest that the drama is suitable for those aged 16 or over, due to its adult themes. More information here and here

 Drama, Theatre, Hope Mill Theatre, Jake Murray, Elysium Theatre Company, Athol Fugard, Hannah Ellis Ryan, Danny Solomon, Northern School of Art, Queen's Hall Arts Centre Hexham
Elysium's Hannah Ellis Ryan, Jake Murray and Danny Solomon outside Queen's Hall Arts Centre Hexham. Photo by RusbyMedia.
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Why? Elysium Theatre Company showcase South African dramatist who deserves a bigger platform
Where: Northern School of Art, Hartlepool and online
Cost: Tickets 5, 3.50 (benefit concession/student//registered disabled)
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