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Master Harold and the Boys [Paperback]

Athol Fugard
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £7.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

23 Jun 2010
Drama / 3m (1 white, 2 black) / Int.

The role that won Zakes Mokae a Tony Award brought Danny Glover back to the New York stage for the Roundabout Theatre's revival of this searing coming of age story, considered by many to be Fugard's masterpiece. A white teen who has grown up in the affectionate company of the two black waiters who work in his mother's tea room in Port Elizabeth learns that his viciously racist alcoholic father is on his way home from the hospital. An ensuing rage unwittingly triggers his inevitable passage into the culture of hatred fostered by apartheid.

"One of those depth charge plays [that] has lasting relevance [and] can triumphantly survive any test of time...The story is simple, but the resonance that Fugard brings to it lets it reach beyond the narrative, to touch so many nerves connected to betrayal and guilt. An exhilarating play...It is a triumph of playmaking, and unforgettable."-New York Post

"Fugard creates a blistering fusion of the personal and the political."-The New York Times

"This revival brings out [the play's] considerable strengths."-New York Daily News


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Product details

  • Paperback: 73 pages
  • Publisher: Samuel French Trade (23 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0573640394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0573640391
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 12.2 x 0.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 349,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The St. George's Park Tea Room on a wet and windy Port Elizabeth afternoon. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Set in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1950, this powerful three-character play considers the interwoven relationships of young Harold (Hally), the seventeen-year-old son of the white proprietor of a tea room, and two of the African men who have worked there for years. Hally, unable to depend on his alcoholic father, now living in an institution, has always depended on Sam, the waiter, for guidance and knowledge about the real world. They share a long history in which Sam has been very much a father substitute for Hally, who has always shown him respect.
Willie, the custodian, who also looks to Sam for guidance, plans to participate, along with Sam, in a ballroom dancing competition in two weeks. For them, dancing "is beautiful because that is what we want life [in South Africa] to be like." In real life, however, "none of us knows the steps...we're bumping into each other all the time." As the play progresses, the three men reminisce, talk about their ideas of what constitutes a great hero, and show their easy relationship with each other.
A phone call announcing that Hally's father is being released from the hospital upsets the equilibrium, however. Hally, morose and worried about the future, fears that his father will once again destroy his world. Taking out his anger on Sam and Willie, he tears at their dreams regarding the dancing contest, mocking their goals and becoming cynical about what the contest means to them. As his frustration grows, Hally hurts them as he has been hurt by his father, demanding ultimately that both men call him "Master Harold.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American edition 6 Feb 2008
Format:Hardcover
This is the first edition of the play published in New York when it had only been performed in the USA. It gives full details of that production and two good photographs of the cast, one on the dust wrapper. Anyone wanting details of subsequent productions should try a later edition. This one will be of interest to scholars who may wish to look to see if Fugard made any subsequent amendments to his text.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Play 25 Sep 2013
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The play is a classic exploration of a young white boy's coming of age in the early years of apartheid and the racial tensions which destroy his relationship with hos boyhood hero!
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5.0 out of 5 stars school book purchase 27 Dec 2011
By David S
Format:Paperback
this is a complusory read for my daughter at school this year, and is imersed in it already. She's avidly reading since she opened her present. Excellent
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life: "None of us knows the steps, and no music's playing" 16 Dec 2004
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Set in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1950, this powerful three-character play considers the interwoven relationships of young Harold (Hally), the seventeen-year-old son of the white proprietor of a tea room, and two of the African men who have worked there for years. Hally, unable to depend on his alcoholic father, now living in an institution, has always depended on Sam, the waiter, for guidance and knowledge about the real world. They share a long history in which Sam has been very much a father substitute for Hally, who has always shown him respect.

Willie, the custodian, who also looks to Sam for guidance, plans to participate, along with Sam, in a ballroom dancing competition in two weeks. For them, dancing "is beautiful because that is what we want life [in South Africa] to be like." In real life, however, "none of us knows the steps...we're bumping into each other all the time." As the play progresses, the three men reminisce, talk about their ideas of what constitutes a great hero, and show their easy relationship with each other.

A phone call announcing that Hally's father is being released from the hospital upsets the equilibrium, however. Hally, morose and worried about the future, fears that his father will once again destroy his world. Taking out his anger on Sam and Willie, he tears at their dreams regarding the dancing contest, mocking their goals and becoming cynical about what the contest means to them. As his frustration grows, Hally hurts them as he has been hurt by his father, demanding ultimately that both men call him "Master Harold."

Based on an incident in the life of the playwright, who was strongly opposed to the policies of apartheid which began in South Africa around 1948, this powerful and poignant drama casts Sam, a black man, as a person of vision and nobility. Hally, a young white man, chooses to exert power, instead of being human, and shows that he is a lesser man than either Sam or Willie. Less a political drama than a human one, the play rises above its immediate setting to consider universal feelings and human relationships. Mary Whipple
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars South African litterate beauty 26 Jun 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Words and the imagination of the reader are quintessentials of modern drama. Never since Shakespeare do you find such fine and eloquent use of words and language as in Athol Fugard's "Master Harold and the boys." Speech is powerful and has never more been so than in this play
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Play 16 Aug 2009
By Valerie J. Saturen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Set in 1950s South Africa, this short one-act play packs a lot of power. The play starts fairly slowly, building the scene and allowing the reader to get to know its three characters: the teenage Hally, who's white, and Sam and Willie, the two black men who work in Hally's mother's restaurant. Willie is a less developed character than the other two; he is a simple man who is thick-headed and abusive toward his girlfriend. More central to the play is the complex relationship between Hally and Sam, who are in a sense opposites--Hally is well-educated but arrogant, while Sam lacks formal education but is humble and wise. Sam has been a lifelong fixture in Hally's life, essentially raising Hally while his father spent his days drinking. Beneath their dynamic relationship is an undercurrent of racial tension, which builds to a powerful climax at the play's end.

Much of the play's effectiveness owes to its portrayal of the subtleties of racism. It is clear that Hally views himself as an enlightened person; he espouses lofty ideals, tutors Sam in geography, and prides himself on the taboo friendship he had with the two black men as a child. When Sam finally gets him to take an interest in his passion of ballroom dancing, Hally seems to congratulate himself for finding some value in what he calls "the release of primitive emotions through movement" in a "primitive black society." Yet in his smugness, Hally is oblivious to what's really going on. For all his talk of the need for "progress," he is unwilling to take personal responsibility for it, resigning himself instead to waiting for the next great social reformer to come along. He is condescending toward Sam and fails to realize he has anything to learn from the older man. However, the young man's ignorance comes through most poignantly when the two recall an incident during Hally's childhood where Sam took him to fly a homemade kite. We learn later that because of Hally's obliviousness toward Sam--and toward the sting of racism--his recollection of the event is missing a painful, essential truth that changes the story completely.

MASTER HAROLD does leave the reader with a glimmer of hope, embodied by the dignity and compassion Sam maintains even when abandoning these virtues would be more than understandable. But the play also shows how formidable are the psychological obstacles standing in the way of change, and the degree to which racism causes suffering on both sides. Once the truly ugly side of Hally's view of Sam comes out, he becomes committed to it. Further, it's not just between Sam and Hally--Hally is burdened by the failings of the previous generation, and beneath his arrogance is a deep shame about his crippled, pitiful alcoholic father. In the end, one cannot help but feel for Hally, because of the damage his racism has done to the most important relationship he has.

The dialogue in MASTER HAROLD is very real, yet it's also fraught with layers of meaning. That this play imbues a single sixty-page scene with so much significance, complexity, and wrenching emotion is a real testament to Fugard's masterful writing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best play I've read 24 Sep 2005
By hi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I just finished reading this play for school and really enjoyed it. I was usually used to reading Shakespeare plays which really didn't interest me whatsoever. Then, there are those new plays that also seem to always fall short of fun reads. Well, this short play with only 3 characters actually really interested me. It was sad, tragic, funny, and very interesting. It takes place in the 50s in South Africa where racism is everly strong. In this play, there are 2 black, middle aged men, and one teenage white boy. The black men work for the boy's parents in their company and right now the boy is there alone with them as his father is in the hospital and his mother is there caring for him. At first, the 3 men seem to get along but quickly enough, racism explodes onto the pages. You see this little white boy screaming at middle aged men, treating them like dogs, taking out his aggression on them...why?...because he can. Becauseracism is everywhere and you can do whatever you want to do them.

The play shows this white boy, for no apparent reason, turning from gentle and calm to angry and frustrated.

Note how the crippled father shows how his point of view is crippled, showing how racist he is.

Athol Fugard is a very talented writer and makes this short 1hour by yourself or 2hour oral reading in class a remarquable one.

All plays should be as provoative as this one but sadly they aren't, and I strongly recommend buying this little gem, as light as a feather, that you'll be rereading a lot.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a gripping look at racism's multiple victims 18 July 2005
By David A. Baer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Athol Fugard, 'Master Harold' ... and the boys. New York: Penguin. 1984. Originally produced in 1982 by the Yale Repertory Theatre.

Hally does not know who he is. The single white character on stage in South African-born playright Athol Fugard's one-scene work is the friend of his mother's two black employees when they tend to St George's Park Tearoom in her absence. But he is also their 'Master Harold'-reluctantly but inevitably-when the stress of his crippled, alcoholic father's homecoming impels him into an emotional space that one simply does not share with black folks. Perhaps is it the burden of dealing with human beings on the multiple levels that racism forces upon those who resent but ultimately accede to their required roles that embitters Hally beyond redemption.

Hally doesn't know several things. He is ignorant of the nobility with which Sam and Willie have battled for his dignity over the years of service to his family. He doesn't understand that even this virtue has its limits, beyond which dignity weighs more than the possibility of continuing friendship.

Hally doesn't understand that a night of dancing at the Eastern Province Open Dancing Championships is a thing of beauty rather than of entertainment, nor the hope that is nurtured in a space where for one night people never bump into each other.

'Master Harold', the title upon which he insists at the cost of everything that matters, will never know because he cannot learn. He is a million times more the victim of the 1950's racism in the land of Fugard's birth than any black man whom, when pushed beyond his modest emotional means, he shoves around. They, at least, leave this dark, sad drama with something.
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