When Hally became disturbed by the phone calls announcing his father was leaving the hospital he would vent his anger by ordering Sam and Willie to “get to work.” Then he would cool down and his fond memory of how Sam built a kite and taught the boy how to fly it. The discussion turned to ballroom dancing and Hally thought that would make for an interesting topic for his school essay. Fugard uses the metaphor of ballroom dancing for a world in which apartheid has forces and people bumping into each other like dancers on the ballroom floor.
When yet another phone call has Hally’s father at home, he can’t hold back his rage at his drunken invalid father. He again takes it frustration out on the only two people he has any control over—Sam and Willie. Hally rage is full of racist jokes, insulting and condescending personal insults and humiliating orders toward Willie and, most of all, Sam. The more Sam tries to council the boy, the more Hally’s deep seeded racism emerges. Hally crosses the line and the relationship is forever changed. Fugard makes a dramatically powerful statement that every relationship and memory is affected by political and social attitudes in which it exists.
Nate Burger, while at first appearing a tad too old to be 17, possesses enough boyish charm to be credible. He demonstrates an excellent white South African/British accent and the intense emotional range to make Hally both likeable and a product of his time. Burger’s emotional breakdown was quite moving. Daniel Bryant, as Willie, nicely supported and underscored Sam’s encounters with the boy.
Throughout "Master Harold.".. and the Boys, Athol Fu gard describes many emotions that take place between the characters, to which different reactions are noted. An emotion is a subjective response, usually accompanied by a physiological change, which is interpreted in a particular way by the individual and often leads to a change in behavior (Psychology 314). The emotions are not just expressed ...
Alfred H. Wilson was outstanding as the charismatic Sam. Wilson exudes the strength and dignity of a man at peace with himself. We feel his warmth, wit and genuine friendliness toward the boy and we also feel his pain,humiliation and rage when Hally berates him. Wilson and Burger’s interactions were truthful and convincing especially in the scenes about Sam building a kite for Hally.
Fugard’s play puts a face on apartheid and suggests that weakness and need to control others is at the source of racism. He shows us that once trapped in that scenario, few realize that change is possible. Hally doesn’t realize the consequences of his behavior toward Sam and Willie. He attacks Sam because he can’t attack his father.
This is a moving work that everyone should see as a reminder about injustice. The power of friendship and the destructive nature of institutional racism collide as Fugard puts a face on it in this landmark work. Master Harold and the Boys is a reminder to us that we still have work to do. Kudos to Timeline Theatre for mounting Fugard’s most autobiographical work. The performances due justice to the work’s powerful message.