This intimate three-hander centres around Mr M, played by Anthony Ofoegbu, a passionate teacher at the all-black school in ‘the location’, one of the segregated black areas in South Africa. He ardently believes that through good education the underprivileged students in his care will have the knowledge and language to later fight for their equality in a respectable and diplomatic manner. This is his dream. His protégé, Thami, played by Nathan Ives-Moiba, is an exceptionally bright character of which Mr M sees a huge amount of potential.
An organised debating club is set up by Mr M between his own school and a white-only all girls grammar school. Feisty Isabel (Rose Reynolds) wins the first debate against Thami and their acquaintance with one another turns into a thriving friendship and prompts the pairing of this dynamic duo to join forces for an inter-school competition. Enthusiastic Isabel and motivated Mr M share a debatably naive vision of unity between the black and white people of South Africa. Thami however shares a different and pragmatic vision. As the play unfolds we see an unrest begin to emerge in Thami who is exasperated by the wait for equality in education for black people and believes that Mr M’s old fashioned ways of using an insufficient and inferior education systems to fight back against the white supremacy is getting his people nowhere.
It is hard to argue with any of the characters in this play because writer Athol Furgard puts each character’s view across so eloquently and thoroughly your sympathy lies with each character in turn. It is very unusual for a politically stimulated playwright not to propel his opinions on the audience by using his characters to convey his own integral imbedded views subtly throughout the play.Part of the beauty of My Children! My Africa! is that the play is written with each of the three characters supporting a different ideology. Fugard’s unbiased impartiality enabled me to watch each character progress down completely different paths while emphatically understanding why they have chosen to do so.If you favour plays with many bells and whistles; where much is seen and not hear then this is not the play for you. This is an intellectual play, and is very much about the language and beauty of the eloquence of speech.
Fugard has a complex and intricate way with words that are conquered proficiently and beautifully by this competent cast. Reynolds and Ofoegbu have a delightful chemistry. An intuitive actress, Reynolds is playfully and witty in her delivery, often bouncing off the energy thrown at her by Ofoegbu who is captivating and enchanting in equal measure. Ives-Moiba shows us a pure genuineness in the agonizingly difficult position his character is in. His performance was precise and convincing and I am little surprised by his Off West End Award nomination.
For play that was written and first performed in South Africa in 1989, during the fourth generation of the apartheid, it is still brutally relevant to all racial conflict still sadly present in our world today. This is a well-executed and thought-provoking piece of theatre that I hope many get to see.
My Children! My Africa! is playing the Trafalgar Studios until 29 August. For more information and tickets, see the My Children! My Africa! website. Photo by Boris Mitkov.