After An Arrest Under The Immorality Act
Orange Tree Theatre Autumn 2021
Athol Fugard’s 1972 play is a shocking glimpse of the way the South African apartheid regime intruded into the most intimate aspects of people’s lives.
Until 1985 its notorious Immorality Act prohibited sexual relationships between a white person and someone from any other ethnic group. Breaking this law was punishable by up to five years imprisonment for the man and four years for the woman.
Diane Page, winner of the JMK Award for this production, sets it in and around a pit which at one point becomes a place to hide when the lovers think someone is coming into the library where the white woman Freida (Scarlett Brookes) works and has sexual encounters with the ‘coloured’ man Errol (Shaq Taylor) after the library is closed for the day.
They talk about their awkwardness, about Errol’s feelings of shame and his fear of being asked where he is going as he comes to meet Freida. She, though occasionally fearless, asks him to wait till dark before slipping away. Her concern for secrecy is well-founded, with a white neighbour reporting them to the police.
The later section of the play becomes more expressionistic, mixing the cruel official statements of the police officer Du Preez (Richard Sutton) to a court, with the explanations of Freida and Errol. The police statement alone is quite chilling, with its grim bureaucratic detail and photographs of the offenders that Du Preez casually throws into the pit.
This is a moving performance with Errol often looking haunted and Freida looking anxious. The actors haven't yet become comfortable with the South African accents, but that doesn't stop this being a very watchable seventy-five minute show.
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Review of Statements After An Arrest Under The Immorality Act - Orange Tree Theatre 2021