Reviewed by Ceri Horner
Master Harold and the boys is the true story of a single shameful episode in the life of author Athol “Harold” Fugard; an episode which has haunted Fugard since his early teens when his mother owned a tea-room in South Africa in the 1950’s.
Director Rob Croser beautifully conveys the complex relationship of Harry and Sam as Harry routinely completes his homework in the tea-room.
Throughout the blissful innocence of childhood Sam has been many things to Harry; father figure, philosophical sparring partner, friend and servant. But what happens when that childhood is over and the stark reality of a class system becomes painfully apparent? True equality can never exist in a society where the colour of your skin dictates what career you might have and which park bench you may sit on.
Benji Riggs brilliantly portrays a confused and conflicted Hally on the brink of adulthood in a place that sets out to humiliate black people. Riggs’ performance is mature, complex and compelling, leaving me believing that there is very little that this talented song and dance man can’t do!
Shedrick Yarkpai provides a gentle and intelligent interpretation of Sam, a man held back by the limitations bestowed on him through the colour of his skin. Yarkpai and Riggs are compelling and bring natural warmth to their characters, allowing you to believe they have been friends for years.
Unfortunately the actor cast in the role of Willie withdrew from the production a week before opening. Luckily William Mude stepped into the role to ensure that the show could go on. Mude works with a script for the entirety of the performance but this certainly does not spoil what is otherwise a terrific production of a thought provoking play.