Master Harold and the Boys

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First impressions in the opening of...
“Master Harold” ...and the boys

“Master Harold” ...and the boys, by the white South African playwright Athol Fugard, is a naturalistic play set in a Tea Room in Port Elizabeth on a rainy day in 1950. Two black servants, Sam and Willie, and their white master’s son Hally (‘Master Harold’), have deep conversations about the good time they had together when Hally was young. In the beginning of the play, Sam and Willie, practice their dancing techniques and talk about an upcoming dance contest. Fugard has created first impressions of situation and characters in the opening of the play by using set design, stage directions, duologue as well as speech and tone. The opening of the play is interpreted as being up to Hally’s first entry. Firstly, the unprofessional and for the audience surprisingly casual and light-hearted situation is created by Fugard’s choice of set design, stage directions and duologue. Secondly, Sam and Willie’s relationship is proven of unequal status, yet intimate and deep, by the difference in speech and tone, and by the choice of topics in the duologue. Finally, initial perceptions of a childish and rude Willie and an intelligent and experienced Sam are constructed through mostly speech and tone.

The unprofessional impression of the Tea Room and the carefree and easy going ambiance is created by set design and stage directions, and duologue. Firstly, the amateurish impression of the business is created by the blackboard on which an untrained hand has chalked up the prices of the items, and by the few sad ferns in pots in the room. Furthermore, the fact that Fugard has chosen to clear all tables to one side, suggests that the business is not doing well, because the Tea Room is not likely to be expecting any customers. Secondly, the audience notices immediately that the mood in the room is casual, by letting Willie start off with singing a song as he mops down the floor. This strong mood is then...
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