Analysis Of Athol Fugard's The Island

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On initial reading, I found it that Athol Fugard’s use of Sophocles’ Antigone in his (collaborative) play, The Island (1973) was imperative to achieve what I understand to be the major (cl)aim of the work: a critique of the government which John and Winston (the two characters in the play) had been sanctioned to prison by. However, deeper reflection reveals that not only is the presence of Antigone of significance, the manner through which the performance of the contents of Antigone is conceived by John and Winston is telling, as well. It is on reflecting on this second component of Antigone’s impact on The Island that we become more aware of the elements of hybridity present in the latter work as identified by William Worthen, most specifically,…show more content…
Creon, played by John, represents the state in Antigone and simultaneously represents the apartheid government and policies in The Island whilst Antigone, played by Winston, represents the will of the gods – a temperament that is concerned with giving all humans their dues (e.g. Polynices must receive proper burial rites for he is a creation of the gods) –, represents the political prisoners who defied the laws to achieve a greater cause, as did Antigone. Fugard makes it very clear whose ideals John and Winston align with as John remarks, “Antigone buried Polynices … The one who I said was on our side,” (52). Regardless of what character John or Winston plays, they are both equally championing the cause of Antigone, which in their own worldly context (synonymous with the context of reality of that time,…show more content…
Of the latter concept, poor theatre, Fugard’s use of the form transcends simple aesthetics, as is the original concern of Grotowski’s “poor theatre”. That is, whilst Grotowski conceived the term “poor theatre” to conceptualize theatre that rid itself of its excesses (e.g. unnecessary props, set pieces, etc.) and centers more on the skill of the actor and employs only a handful of props. This poor theatre is “poor”, lacking in peripheral elements of theatre, because it chooses to be. The Island, however, employs poor theatre in its own production and in the production of the play within itself, Antigone, because it serves as a reinforcement in the portrayal of the environment and reality John and Winston must live through. John and Winston do not have access to “rich theatre” (be it as prisoners or as free black people in South Africa – there were no theatres in the townships) and, as such, their production of Antigone is not an aesthetic choice but is the child of necessity. Their insistence to put on a production of Antigone despite the fact that the “appropriate” (or, desirable) means had been denied to them, and their reliance on poor theatre as a form in doing so, as Worthen

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