"The Island" by Athol Fugard
A Quick Rundown of The Island
- The Island is a Fugard play that resorts to the Classics to protest Apartheid.
- It takes place in four scenes, opening with a lengthy mimed sequence in which John and Winston, two cell mates in prison on Robben Island, carry out one of the totally pointless and exhausting tasks designed by warders to break the spirit of political prisoners.
- Winston has been sentenced to prison for life because he burned his passbook in front of a police station.
- John has been imprisoned for belonging to a banned organization.
- The story traces the relationship of these two men. Winston is the active rebel,
- and John, the intellectual, is trying to persuade him to play Antigone in a condensed
- two-character version of Sophocles’ play.
- It is to be a prison “concert” for their fellow prisoners and the guards.
- However, Winston rebels at playing Antigone. He doesn’t want the other prisoners to laugh at him for being dressed as a woman, wearing a mop for a wig, false “titties,” and a necklace made of salvaged nails. He protests, “I’m a man, not a bloody woman ... Shit man, you want me to go out there tomorrow night and make a bloody fool of myself?” (p. 208).
- John finally convinces him to cooperate by putting the dress on himself and saying, “… behind all this rubbish is me, and you know it’s me. You think those bastards out there won’t know it’s you? Yes, they’ll laugh. But who cares about that as long as they laugh in the beginning and listen at the end. That’s all we want them to do … listen at the end!” (p. 210).
- Then John is taken to the office of the head warden and told that his appeal against his sentence has been granted. His ten-year term has been reduced to three years. In three months, he will be free.
- But Winston is now facing a bleak future without the friend whose imagination has helped to keep him sane.
- In the final scene, as the two present their version of