The Train Driver

A celebration of a prolific and often produced playwright

For over half century the internationally celebrated playwright Athol Fugard created iconic South African plays featuring home grown narratives. Despite South African drama’s vulnerability to censorship before 1994, he produced plays defiantly indicting the country’s apartheid’s policy. His work post-1994, has been mostly reflective and often more personal than political.

Now resident in the USA, the giant wordsmith from the city of Port Elizabeth moved to Johannesburg in 1958, where he worked as a clerk in a Native Commissioners’ Court. It was in Johannesburg that Fugard organised, wrote and produced his early plays, No Good Friday (1958) and Nongogo (1959). The Market Theatre will present Nongogo and one Fugard’s later plays, The Train Driver (2009), in Fugard@86, a season that celebrates the iconic dramatist’s work as he turns 86 this year.

The Fugard@86 season will kick off with The Train Driver, a haunting mesmerizing and deeply personal journey into the human soul. The play was inspired by the true event of Pumla Lolwana who, in December 2000, pulled her three children close to her body and stepped in front of a train on the railway tracks between Philippi and Nyanga on the Cape Flats.  The horrific situation was first captured in Fugard’s notebook, Karoo and other stories, yet it was only a while later that it was conceptualized into a play.

In Fugard’s imaginary play inspired by the horrific event, a tormented train driver is compelled to visit a makeshift graveyard in the middle of nowhere, determined to find the unmarked grave of the woman he unintentionally killed. The Train Driver directed by Charmaine Weir Smith will star award winning actor and Fugard’s long-time friend John Kani alongside Dawid Minnaar. The Train Driver will run from 4 May to 03 June 2018.

Fugard’s sobering yet entertaining play, Nongogo, about a 1950s shebeen, in which society’s misfits drink to remember and drink to forget will be directed by James Ngcobo. The production delivering a delightful and captivating piece that is rich and rife with unfulfilled hopes, dark secrets, jealousy and with flaring tempers, grim chuckles and wistful longings will feature a star-studded cast of Vusi Kune, Zikhona Sodlaka, Bongani Gumede, Zenzo Ngqobe and Peter Mashigo. Nongogo will be at the Market Theatre from 15 June to 15 July 2018.

The Market Theatre’s Fugard@86 season comprising of two of the playwright’s richly human plays that challenge his audience to confront and address social injustice will articulate why Athol Fugard remains one of the world’s most prolific and often produced playwrights.

About Athol Fugard:

Athol Fugard was born in 1932 in Middelburg in the Karoo. An internationally acclaimed playwright director and occasional actor, for over half a century he has written almost forty soul-searing plays with roles for all South Africans which have moved audiences in South Africa and around the world to laughter and tears as they reflected the inhumanity of apartheid. His plays champion truth and a fundamental universal humanity. In 2011 he received the ultimate recognition from the world’s most prestigious theatre community – a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre. He is also the author of four books and several screenplays. His plays include Blood Knot, Boesman and Lena, Master Harold and the Boys, The Train Driver, The Blue Iris and The Shadow of the Hummingbird. Many of his works have been turned into films with director Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi, based on his 1980 short story of the same name, won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film – South Africa’s first Academy award in this category. Athol’s work spans the period of apartheid in South Africa, through the first democratic elections, to Nelson Mandela’s presidency and into present-day, post-apartheid South Africa.


Lighting Designer
Set & Costume
Stage Manager

John Kani
Dawid Minnaar

Athol Fugard
Charmaine Weir Smith
Mannie Manim
Thando Lobese
Lebeisa Molapo

Age Rec:
Performance times:

Ticket Prices:
Student Price:
Tuesday – Sunday:

1 hour 15 minutes
15 years (strong language)
4 May – 3 June 2018
The Mannie Manim Theatre
Tuesday – Saturday @20h15
and Sunday @15h15

R90.00 – R150.00

To make block bookings, please contact Anthony Ezeoke
011 832 1641 ext 203 or Yusrah Bardien 011 832 1641 ext 204

For further information, interviews and images, contact: