Boesman and Lena

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Boesman and Lena is a play by Athol Fugard.

The original text

A three-hander play about two wandering “coloured” vagrants who speculate on life, love and freedom. Perhaps one of Athol Fugard’s most celebrated works, a setwork for schools in post-1994 South Africa.

First performed at Rhodes University in 1969, and first published in the same year. Also published in Buren and in Boesman and Lena and Other Plays (Oxford University Press).


Translated into Afrikaans as Boesman en Lena by respectively Alta Coetzee, Frederick B. Philander and Petrovna Metelerkamp.

Performances in South Africa

NELM holds an undated theatre programme of a production of Boesman and Lena directed by Athol Fugard, with Zakes Mokae, Yvonne Bryceland and Bloke Modisane in the cast. (NELM: Framed items [Collection: Theatre programmes]: 2013. 2. 13).

1969: First performed at Rhodes University in 1969, directed by Athol Fugard with himself as Boesman, Yvonne Bryceland as Lena and Glynn Day as Outa.

1969: Presented by the Cape Performing Arts Board (in a CAPAB, PACT and Phoenix Players collaboration), with Athol Fugard ("Boesman"), Yvonne Bryceland ("Lena") and Glynn Day ("Outa") at the Alexander Theatre, Johannesburg.

1970: CAPAB with Athol Fugard (Boesman), Yvonne Bryceland (Lena) and Glynn Day at the Hofmeyr Theatre (lighting devised by Scott Robertson), subsequently touring the Transvaal in association with PACT.

1980: Performed in Afrikaans as Boesman en Lena by PACOFS Drama, directed by Cobus Rossouw, starring Schalk Jacobsz ("Boesman"), Sandra Kotzé ("Lena") and Laurens Celliers ("Outa").

198*: The Afrikaans translation staged by Die Bywoners, with Schalk Jacobsz and Elma Potgieter in the lead roles.

1984: A production featuring Janet Suzman as "Lena", was done on 29 March 1984, according to materials in the Janet Suzman collection at NELM

1993: Jerry Mofokeng directed a version of this play starring Bill Curry, Nomhle Nkonyeni and James Mthoba at Upstairs at the Market in 1993. Sets and costumes designed by Nadya Cohen.

1996: Staged in the Arena Theatre at the Nico Malan Theatre in July 1996, directed by Nkosinathi Gqotso, with Neels Coetzee, Sylvia Esau and Shaun Arnolds. Design by Michael Mitchell, lighting by Jack Arnott.

1998: In March the Afrikaans translation Boesman en Lena by Metelerkamp was staged by PACOFS and the Vrystaat Ensemble in the André Huguenet Theatre in Bloemfontein, directed by Gerben Kamper, with Maurice Carpede (Boesman), Maria de Koker (Lena) and Babes Mphatseng (Outa). The same production was later staged at the KKNK 1998.

2012: Production by Daphne Kuhn, directed by James Ngcobo, starring Quanita Adams, Elton Landrew and Charly Azade, ran at the Old Mutual Theatre on the Square until June 30 2012.

2014: Performed by Prompt Side Productions, supported by the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT), at the Hexagon Theatre, Pietermaritzburg. Directed by Brenda-Lee Celewith Sade Wagner, Tshepang Koloko and Musa Nkomo.

2016: Produced by UJ Arts & Culture[1] as part of a festival of works under the title LIBERAT!ON MMXVI[2] at the Con Cowan Theatre from 17 May. Produced by Grace Meadows, directed by Phala Ookeditse Phala with Lalu Mokuku, Lebohang Inno and Lebogang Motaung. Design by Alby Michaels.

Performances abroad

Directed by Zakes Mokae, at the Poor Alex Theatre, Toronto, Canada, from 5 to 28 April 1972.

Film versions

Has twice been filmed:

1974 Filmed by Ross Devenish, produced by Bluewater Productions, with the 1970 cast, including Percy Sieff as a fisherman.

2000 Filmed by Anant Singh, directed by John Berry. Writers: Athol Fugard (play), John Berry (adaptation), with Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Willie Jonah, Graham Weir and Anton Stoltz.


CAPAB programme, 1969.

Theatre programmes 1970, 1980, 1996.

Ruphin Coudyzer. 2023. Annotated list of his photographs of Market Theatre productions. (Provided by Coudyzer)

PACOFS Drama 25 Years, 1963-1988.

KKNK programme, 1998.

Boesman and Lena set-work for PMB, Prompt Side Productions (ArtsLink, 05/14/2014)[3]

Entry on Boesman and Lena in Wikipedia[4]

Theatre programme of the Canadian production held by NELM: [Collection: Rhodes University Drama Department]: 2006. 48. 3. 4.

NELM: Collection: SUZMAN, Janet: 2008. 15. 1. 29.

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