PREVIEW BY MICHAEL FARRELL
The Seymour Centre presents Merrigong Theatre Company’s production of The Valley Song, by famed South African playwright Athol Fugard. From there its Sydney tour will take it to the Glen Street Theatre in Belrose and Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres.
First performed in 1996, The Valley Song offers an optimistic, hopeful vision of South Africa. In a tiny countryside village live seventeen-year old Veronica and her aging grandfather, Buks. Veronica’s strong desire to leave the valley and follow her dreams is matched only by Buks determination to protect her and to resist the inevitable changes enveloping them.
‘It’s a post-apartheid play,’ says Alex Steffensen, who plays Veronica, ‘which means that it’s a story between two characters. And while there is a political bent to the play I wouldn’t necessarily call it a political piece. It’s about this young girl’s relationship with her Grandfather, after her Mother dies young. It’s a very touching piece and I hope that people leave the theatre inspired.
‘Veronica wants more for herself and for her life, and for the first time she sees that there’s an opportunity to break through the stereotype mould that her mother and grandmother would have had to live through, an opportunity to live out her dream.’
Fugard was a white playwright bold enough to work with black actors during apartheid, which was unheard of at the time. He was very aware of the hardships and injustices of apartheid, and created politically charged theatre to suit, so it makes sense for his work to take on a tone of optimism in a South Africa where the wounds are beginning to heal.
‘It’s a very positive play about hope, promise, and fulfilling your dreams’ says Steffensen, ‘Veronica sees a lot of hope for herself, which represents the feeling in the country at the time.’
Steffensen, born in Johannesburg, claims that she’d always had a personal desire to do a Fugard play, and now she’s also been presented with an opportunity to delve further into the character of Veronica with this remount of The Valley Song. ‘I think Fugard is a really beautiful writer, and he constructs his plays so they unravel slowly. His characters have a lot of heart. An exciting thing for me is having this opportunity to play Veronica a second time around. Already knowing the character well, you can build on that and find more complexities, find things that weren’t there before. But the most attractive thing about this character is that she believes in herself, and I think that’s important.
The Valley Song resonates not only as a touchingly personal tale about how our hopes, dreams and fears shape us, but also as a metaphor for the future of post-apartheid South Africa.
The Valley Song
August 5 ‘ 16
Seymour Centre, Cnr Cleveland Street and City Road
Tickets: $38 – $45, 9351 7940 or www.seymourcentre.com.au