The Road to Mecca

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The Road to Mecca is both a play and a film (based on the play) by Athol Fugard (1932-).

The Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard - the play

The original text

The title of the play is taken from a story by Don Maclennan which was published in Contrast magazine in July 1979 and republished in ADA Magazine in 1988.

The play, set in Autumn 1974, tells the story of the obsessive "Outsider Artist"[1] Helen Martins and her "Owl House"[2] in Nieu Bethesda, using her story to explore the nature of art and the soul of the artist.

The play not only made Helen Martins and her Owl House world famous, but also established the town of Nieu Bethesda as an tourist destination, with the Owl House a key site. The author also later bought a house in the town and worked there from time to time.

The text was published by Faber & Faber, 1985.

Translations and adaptations

Performance history in South Africa

1984: First performed at the Market Theatre in 1984, directed by the author and with Yvonne Bryceland as Helen, Elize Cawood as Elsa Barlow and Louis van Niekerk as Ds Marius Byleveld. Design by Douglas Heap, lighting design by Mannie Manim, costumes by Vanessa Cooke.

1989: Presented by CAPAB, directed by Rob Amato, co-directed by Bo Petersen opening at The Barn, Port Elizabeth Opera House on 23 August 1989 and at the Nico Arena on 1 September 1989, starring Lida Meiring as Miss Helen, Neels Coetzee as Marius Byleveld, Pauline O'Kelly as Elsa. Music David Nissen, designs Birrie le Roux, lighting Skip Wright.

2018: Produced by Eric Abraham at the Fugard Theatre in March and April 2018. Directed by Greg Karvellas with Sandra Prinsloo, Marius Weyers and Emily Child. Design by Saul Radomsky, lighting by Mannie Manim and Sound design by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.

Performance history outside South Africa

Below is a list of materials (newspaper reviews, theatre programmes, playscripts, etc.) held by the National English Literary Museum (NELM) concerning productions of The Road to Mecca in English or in translation outside South Africa:

Queensland Theatre Company, directed by Carol Burns, date unknown;

Yale Repertory Theatre production of The Road to Mecca - 1984;

Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London - 1985. Opened on 27 February 1985, with Yvonne Bryceland, Charlotte Cornwell and Bob Peck, staged by Athol Fugard;

Vagen till Mecka: programme of Scandinavian production of The Road to Mecca;

Maxim Gorki Theater production of The Road to Mecca – 1986;

Malmo Stadsteater production of The Road to Mecca - 1986-7;

Helsingin Kaupungin Teatteri production of The road to Mecca - 1986-7;

A production with Yvonne Bryceland and Charlotte Cornwell in the cast, at the Spoleto Festival, from the New York Times of 28 May 1987;

La via della Mecca: [Italian translation of The Road to Mecca];

Yale Repertory Theater production of The Road to Mecca – 1984;

Indiana Repertory Theatre [play programme]: Promenade Theatre (pre-1996);

a programme and small posters for the Japanese production of The Road to Mecca in April 1998;

El Camino a la Meca: [poster of Mexican production of The Road to Mecca];

Mijn Mekka: [programme of Dutch production of The Road to Mecca].

The Road to Mecca by Athol Fugard - the film

(Not to be confused with the documentary film A Road to Mecca: The Journey of Muhammad Asad by Georg Misch, 2009)

The film, produced by Anant Singh, starred Yvonne Bryceland, Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates and Athol Fugard, was made in 1991, directed by Peter Goldsmid and Athol Fugard. Film script by Peter Goldsmid, based on the Fugard text.


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

Theatre programmes 1984, 1989.

Nico Malan Theatre pamphlets, Aug-Nov 1989

Filmscript [Typescript (photocopy).] NELMCollection: FUGARD, Athol]: 2012. 390. 3.

Barry Hough. 1985. "'n Boom met sterk wortels", Beeld (Kalender, pp. 2-3)

Go to ESAT Bibliography

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