Bringing it on home at Abbey Theatre, St Albans
THE homecoming of Hester and its implications is at the heart of Hello and Goodbye by Athol Fugard, the next production from the St Albans drama group the Company of Ten.
Being performed in the Abbey Theatre Studio from next Friday, January 21, until Saturday, January 29, the play is set in 1960s South Africa where Hester is waiting on a station platform to return to her family home in a white slum area of Port Elizabeth.
There her youngest brother Johnnie has spent most of his adult life caring for their disabled father. But the fragile balance of Johnnie’s life is seriously disturbed by Hester’s return, leading to revelations that are, at times, painful and often moving. Yet throughout there is warmth and forgiveness and moments of quiet humour.
In the Company of Ten production of the play by Fugard, who is acknowledged as South Africa’s greatest playwright, Ian Jordan takes the role of Johnnie. In his first year with the company, Ian has made his mark in productions such as Taking Sides and David Copperfield.
Tina Swain takes the role of Hester and for her it is the fulfilment of a long-held ambition. As a drama teacher in South Africa during the 80s and 90s, she taught Athol Fugard’s plays and the strong female roles he created were always popular with pupils looking for exam monologues.
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Tina said: “I first came across Fugard’s work at university and found his plays to be richly textured, full of warmth, hope and humour despite the political context of the apartheid regime. His characters live within the system and it forms the constant background to their lives and experiences.”
Moving to South Africa when her father’s job took the family there, Tina spent five years at Natal University and while she enjoyed living in the country, England was always her home. During her time in Durban, Tina was a member of several amateur theatre companies and remembers playing the eponymous heroine of Educating Rita. She commented: “Ironic, really, that in Durban I played someone with a Liverpool accent and now in St Albans I’m playing Hester with a Johannesburg accent.”
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Tickets for Hello and Goodbye are available from the Abbey Theatre box office or online at www.abbeytheatre.org.uk