Set during South African apartheid, The Island is a play that Athol Fugard co-wrote with two writers and actors, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, both Black South Africans. The three men met when they were members of a drama group called the Serpent...
Athol Fugard is a South African playwright, novelist, and director, who often writes on the subject of South African apartheid. His works are often critical investigations of South African history, and he has been called South Africa's greatest playwright. His plays include The Cell, The Blood Knot, Hello and Goodbye, Boesman and Lena, Sizwe Bansi is Dead, The Road to Mecca, My Children! My Africa!, Sorrows and Rejoicings, The Shadow and the Hummingbird, and others. He is also known for writing the novel, Tsotsi, which was then turned into an Academy-Award winning film.
After dropping out of university, Fugard spent some time working on a steamer ship in North Africa, before moving to Johannesburg, where he worked as a clerk in a Native Commissioners' Court. There he began to become interested in the fallout of South African apartheid, and the injustices still built into the system. He began writing plays, many of which were critical of South African politics, and had them produced and published outside the country to avoid censorship. In 1958, he organized a multiracial theater with which he staged his plays. He later formed the Serpent Players.
Bonisile John Kani is a South African actor, director, and writer who collaborated with Fugard to create The Island. His first collaboration with Fugard was on the anti-apartheid play Sizwe Banzi is Dead. He won a Tony Award for his work on the play, which transferred to Broadway in 1975.
As a playwright, his plays include Nothing but the Truth, which looks at the conflict between South African Blacks who stayed to fight apartheid and those who left. His collaborations with Fugard and Winston Ntshona include Sizwe Banzi is Dead, The Island, and Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act.
As an actor, Kani has worked on numerous plays, television shows, and films, including Miss Julie (a television film), Othello (a television film), Wallander, The Ghost and the Darkness, Endgame, Coriolanus, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and The Lion King.
Winston Ntshona was Fugard's other collaborator on The Island. He also won a Tony, along with John Kani, for his work on Sizwe Banzi is Dead. As an actor he appeared in the films The Wild Geese, Marigolds in August, Gandhi, A Dry White Season, The Power of One, Tarzan and the Lost City, and Blood Diamond. He died in 2018.
Study Guides on Works by Athol Fugard
“Master Harold”…and the boys is a multifaceted, stirring testament to the cruelty of apartheid in South Africa. It is Athol Fugard’s most frequently performed and most popular play. Based on events from Fugard’s life, Master Harold is renowned for...
My Children! My Africa! is a two-act play written by Athol Fugard, a white South African playwright who has written over 30 plays. There are only three characters in the play: a white South African teenage girl, a black South African teenage boy,...