The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Woza Albert! is a twenty-six-scene, quick-action play, whose succession of vignettes of black life during South Africa’s apartheid period shows the absurdity of racial oppression. It also illuminates the logic of a plot in which South Africans seek the return of a savior, Morena, who fulfills the biblical prophecy that Jesus Christ will return. The play’s title means “Rise Albert,” referring to the deceased leader of the African National Congress (ANC) and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Luthuli and symbolizing biblical prophecies that the dead will rise to join Jesus Christ when he is resurrected. At the conclusion of the play, Morena goes to the cemetery to raise Luthuli from the dead (as Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus in the New Testament) and to summon other prominent past leaders, including Robert Sobukwe, Lilian Ngoyi, and Steven Biko, to rise and make South Africa a “heaven on earth” for blacks by addressing the atrocities of apartheid.

The stage for Woza Albert! is sparsely set with two tea chests and a suspended wooden plank with nails that hold the ragged clothes that the actors use for character transformations. The actors wear pink clown noses held with elastic bands around their necks for use in scenes in which they portray white characters.

Brief chronological scenes reveal a thematic unity as the two characters demonstrate the types of relationships and encounters that exist within South African society. For example, in the opening scene, a policeman interrogates a South African entertainer about the expiration of his passbook, a permit that allows him to work and move about freely. The injustice of the episode is clear, but scene 2 confirms that such an offense leads to jail time...

(The entire section is 716 words.)