There was a television programme on the other night asking why Irish playwrights had generally failed to challenge the orthodoxy of crass greed during the Celtic Tiger years (my way of summarising it). Even though the question was fiercer than the attempt to answer it, it was still interesting to watch the piece in the lead up to Shiva Productions’ revival of Blood Knot – Athol Fugard’s 50-year old play about two brothers living in a shack in apartheid-poxed South Africa. Unsurprisingly, in offering up lines such as dreams being evidence enough to have one arrested, whilst lampooning racial discrimination through savage play-acting, this was a work that was never going to endear Mr. Fugard to the loony-tunes in charge. Even now, its final scenes still offer up the meaty thud of pricks being kicked, so it was not surprising to learn that those involved in its initial domestic performances did fall foul of the authorities.
Set in a corrugated one-room box next to a fetid lake, brothers Zach and Morrie endure a brittle and meagre existence together. As played by Keith Ward, Morrie is decidedly Gollum-like in his toadying appeasement early-on of the exhausted bread-winning Zach (Kolade Agboke). Meanwhile, the latter – his memory the consistency of cotton wool – is reduced to caveman utterances about his need for “woh-man”. The contrasts between the two are stark, with Morrie literate, regimented, introverted, and prone to nervy babble, while Zach is less sharp-witted, more physiological in terms of his needs, and quite unvarnished in terms of how to fulfil them. He dreams of Friday nights filled with beer, birds, and bonhomie; his brother of vacant, nameless green spots on the map of Africa. (more…)