Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act by Athol Fugard

Review by Linny

1966 South Africa.  A white woman is having an affair with a black man in contravention of The Immorality Act of 1957.

The couple can only meet in a dark room under darkness.  They live with fear.  She lives with a generalised fear that permeates her experience of life.  He lives with immediate fear: the fear generated by his secret walk every night to the back of the library where their relationship is carried out in her office.  Their conversations and their covert love are subtly and overtly conditioned by the more deep-rooted unconscious adjustments they have made to the political framework in which they live.  This is a relationship which cannot last.  Emotionally it is too vulnerable to the larger factors that rule their lives.  The man is also committing adultery and his work ambitions have foundered and he is all too aware, that as a black man, his life is profoundly proscribed.

The couple are reported by an informer.  In court, a third character who stands for the South African state requires that the woman describes in detail, until told to stop, the start of their physical relationship.  For the whole piece the couple are in the nude and during the court hearings the man and woman attempt to cover themselves with their discarded garments.  Nudity was never so effective when partially covered up and when each has to give a testimony about their first act of intimacy.

Fugard’s writing is extraordinary for translating the effects of political repression into the language of the individual.  But more, it is poetic and rhetorical as in the famous speech by the man at the end in which he considers the rhetorical and grotesque possibility of each limb being removed whilst he, the man, is denied the fundamental instinct to love.

Bo Petersen, in particular and Malefane Mosuhli give wonderful performances.

4/5 WIGS


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