The Coat

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The Coat is a play by Athol Fugard and the Serpent Players.

The original text

A workshopped "acting exercise" about a prisoner and his coat, based on a real incident during the trial of members of the company in 1965/6, when Fugard was approached by a man who had been sentenced to ten years hard labour, requesting him to take his coat back to his wife as a memento. In the play the family debate the future of the coat, eventually deciding to place it on a hanger and keep it until the old man returns home.

The original text

The Coat was derived from improvisation, taking a story idea from Gogol's short story The Overcoat coupled with a real-life incident experienced by a New Brighton man, and developed using Brechtian techniques such as subtitles, alienation and metacommentary.

Published in The Classic in 1967. In 1971 it was published by Balkema in one volume together with The Third Degree by Don MacLennan.

Also published in My Children! My Africa! and Selected Shorter Plays by Wits University Press, compiled by Stephen Gray (1990) and in The Distance Remains and Other Plays, compiled by Robin Malan (Oxford University Press [1], 1996).

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1966: Performed in New Brighton

1972: Revived at the SABTU festival.

The Port Elizabeth theatrical society Pemads extended an invitation to the Serpent Players to show their work. In the end, despite certain restrictions put on them, the Serpent Players agreed to perform before the white audience.


The Eastern Province Herald, 6 June 2006.

Various entries in the NELM catalogue.

Robin Malan. 1996.The Distance Remains and Other Plays, Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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