The Island

Introduction

The Island is a play written by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona.

The apartheid-era drama, inspired by a true story, is set in an unnamed prison clearly based on South Africa's notorious Robben Island prison, where Nelson Mandela was held for twenty-seven years. It focuses on two cellmates, one whose successful appeal means that his release draws near and one who must remain in prison for many years to come. They spend their days performing futile physical labor and nights rehearsing in their cell for a performance of Sophocles' Antigone in front of the other prisoners. One takes the part of Antigone, who defies the laws of the state to bury her brother, and the other takes the part of her uncle Creon, who sentences her to die for her crime of conscience. The play draws parallels between Antigone's situation and the situation of black political prisoners. Tensions arise as the performance approaches, especially when one of the prisoners learns that he has won an early release and the men's friendship is tested.


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