The Athol Fugard season at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg concludes with the play Nongogo, which highlights Fugard’s knack for telling human stories that bear witness to political conditions. The play, written in 1959, captures the onset of apartheid’s destruction of black lives. It was also the first play James Ngcobo staged at the Market Theatre after he was appointed the artistic director five years ago. He is revisiting it with fresh ideas. Set in a shebeen, Nongogo brings together the broken, displaced and hopeful characters from Johannesburg’s townships in the 1950s. The drama revolves around Queeny, a shebeen queen – the only woman in the play. The role was written for veteran stage and film actress Nomhle Nkonyeni, who first played Queeny in 1959. Supporting her is Sam, her liquor supplier and old friend. Blackie and Patrick are characters who find refuge and solace in the shebeen, and Johnny is a stranger for whom the shebeen starts off as an occupational stop on his re...

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