Serpent Players

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Founded in 1963 by a group of industrial and service workers led by Norman Ntshinga and including Welcome Duru, Fats Bookholane, Mike Ngxolo and Mabel Magada. Working with Athol Fugard and Sheila Fugard (they gathered secretly once a week at Fugard's home at Schoenmakerskop), they performed in St Stephen's Hall and other spaces in New Brighton and initially tended to produce local adaptations of European classics. Their first production was Machiavelli’s La Mandragola (directed by Fugard, 196* as The Cure and set in a township). Other productions include Büchner’s Woyzeck, Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Sophocles’s Antigone (1965), chosen because the play was about the first conscientious objector dying for her cause.

When they turned to improvisation on the daily lives of local people, they again worked with Fugard and produced The Coat (1966, revived for the SABTU/TECON Festival in 1972* Published 1967), ****. ***???

In 1970 the group toured with a double bill: Friday's Bread on Monday and The Cure.

In 1972 they also did Camus’s The Just (also known as The Terrorists) for the SABTU/TECON Festival in Durban.

The Serpent Players led to a long term friendship and partnership between Athol Fugard and members John Kani and Winston Ntshona, which was inter alia to result in such memorable workshopped plays as The Island and Sizwe Banzi is Dead.

The group also had exchange agreements with Rob Amato's East London based Imitha Players and Don Maclennan's Grahamstown group the Ikhwezi Players.


Loren Kruger, 1999: 136-138, 156, 159;

Gosher, 1988.

Tucker, 1997.

S'ketsh' July 1972, p. 17.

Material held by NELM: [Collection: FUGARD, Athol]: 1987. 25. 12.

The E.P. Herald, 6 June 2006.

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