We asked veteran director, Jovanni Sy, to give us his notes on Athol Fugard’s play, Valley Song. Sy shares with us some historical context leading up to Fugard’s writing of the play, as well as the “this but also that” comparative themes of the script. This “hugely political” yet “intimately personal” play is the perfect closing to Pacific Theatre’s remarkable 2016/17 season.
Jovanni Sy: On April 27, 1994 South Africa held their first free election where all citizens—regardless of race—were allowed to vote. This led to the historic appointment of Nelson Mandela as the country’s first black president. A year later, Athol Fugard’s play Valley Song premiered in Johannesburg. Since the early 60s, Fugard had been a vocal opponent of apartheid and his body of work as a playwright eloquently spoke out against the inherent social injustices of this system. Fugard and his theatre company were subjected to government restrictions and police surveillance. Unbowed, Fugard continued to advocate for equality for over thirty years.
So with Valley Song, the world was keen to see what Fugard would write about in post-apartheid South Africa. Fugard’s newest play turned out to be both timely and timeless. The master playwright created a story that was both specific to the circumstances of the fledgling South African democracy and universal in its themes.
As with many of his earlier plays, Fugard brilliantly managed to encapsulate huge political ideas into intimately personal stories of ordinary people. The character of Buks not only represents the old South Africa, he is the voice of all older generations that are resistant to change. And Veronica’s songs ring true for all young people driven by boundless hopes and dreams.
I hope you enjoy seeing the torch passed from one generation to the next in this tale of love and forgiveness written by one of our greatest living playwrights.
Valley Song will be performed at Pacific Theatre, March 24–April 8. Get your tickets here.
Jovanni Sy is a director, playwright, actor, and Artistic Director of Gateway Theatre in Richmond.He was born in Manila and raised in Toronto where he was based professionally for twenty years as an actor, playwright, director, and dramaturg. His detective thriller, Nine Dragons, will be produced at Gateway, Vertigo Theatre (Calgary), and Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg) next season.