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Sponono is a play in three acts by Alan Paton (1903-1988) and Krishna Shah (1938-2013). Based on three stories by Alan Paton.

The original text

The play is set in a boys' reformatory school in South Africa and deals with the relationship between a young black boy (Sponono) and the white principal of the reform school. The boy struggles to live up to the expectations of the principal, while the principal struggles to understand the boy. The play highlights the problem of mutual understanding across racial tensions in Apartheid South Africa.

The play is based on three stories from a collection of short stories by Alan Paton, titled Tales from a Troubled Land (published in 1961).

Published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York in 1965, and in Cape Town by David Philip, 1983. ISBN 9780908396900.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1962: Premiered at the ML Sultan Hall in Durban on 12 December 1962 and had a run at the Wits Great Hall before its enormous success in the United States in 1964. The play opened at the Cort Theater on Broadway on 2 April 1964 before moving to the African Pavilion of the World Fair in New York. (Sunday Independent 20 September 1998).

It was produced by the Union Artists and performed by students of the AMDA drama school.***

1963: A production was staged from February 20th in 1963 by the Union Artists in the City Hall, Port Elizabeth. Presented by Mayor's School Feeding Fund. Directed by Krishna Shah. Assistant to the director: Athol Fugard. Lighting design by Frank Rembach. New songs composed and traditional chants arranged by Gideon Nxumalo. Cast: Sponono - Cocky Tlhotlhalemaje Principal - Pieter Geldenhuys Elizabeth - Ruth Nkonyeni Walter - Joe Ngoetjana Spike Molestane - Ferdinand Mafata Ha'penny - Philemon Hou Mr. Mabaso - Solomon Rachilo Mr. Makatini - Obed Amigo Dira Mrs. Makatini - Victoria Mahabane Johannes Mofoking - Job Musi Reformatory Boys - Gideon Manana, Alfredo Mogasoa, Osborne Ferdinand, Victor Shange, John Sithebe, Barney Qhobosheane, Paul Makgoba, Job Musi, Douglas Zaba, Simon Chauke Sangoma (Diviner) - Vinah Bendile Imbongi (He who sings praises) - Douglas Xaba Court Attendants - Alfred Mogasoa, John Sithebe, Gideon Manana, Barney Qhobosheane Chief Counsellor - Paul Makgoba Chief Attendant - Victor Shange Choir - Osborne Ferdinand (leader); Iris Letanka, Alice Phokoje, Betty Mthombeni, Maria Khule, Gideon Manana, Alfredo Mogasoa, Simon Chauke, Paul Makgoba, Sam Ngakane


Sunday Independent 20 September 1998.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Programme of Sponono staged in February 1963. Programme sponsored by The OK Bazaars.

Alan Paton and Krishna Shah. 1965. Sponono. Charles Scribner's Sons: New York.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue, including records of reviews and/or programmes of productions.

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