KATHMANDU, May 31: “Do you know what my favorite memory is?” asks Hally to Sam being nostalgically in his mother’s tea room one raining afternoon. “You wouldn’t tell me what it was until you had tied the little pieces of wood together.
You were making a kite and I thought what the hell does a black man know about flying a kite. We went up the hill and I wished there would be no one there because I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to fly the kite but you did and I sat on the bench watching it soar in the sky as you left me saying you had some work to finish,” says Hally.
Twenty minutes later in the play titled Master Harold….and the boys by Athol Fugrad which is the latest production of One World Theater, Sam tells Hally why he had made the kite and why he made up an excuse of work and left him there.
“You came to me and whispered ‘Sam, please help me go get my dad.’ Your father was drunk and you had to go get him because there was no one at home,” says Sam, a 45 years old black man and continues, “You had been sad since that day and continued to look down several days after. I made the kite to help you look up and be hopeful again.”
Thus unfolds the plot of Fugrad’s play that explores the relationship between a young white boy, Hally, and two black waiters Sam and Willie, especially Sam who is a sort of father figure to Hally.
With undertones of institutionalized racism and hatred that has a way of bursting out in the most unbiased settings, the play is set in South Africa during the apartheid era.
As two worlds, the white and black, collides within the walls of St George Park Tea Room, owned by Hally’s mother, issues once insignificant surface leaving behind ugly bruises.
Directed by Deborah Merola, the play through the metaphor of ballroom dancing brings to light discrimination regardless of being publicly uprooted does find a home within each one of us and we use it to defend ourselves and the choices we are compelled to make, like Hally had to, in accepting his crippled, alcoholic father who is on his way back from the hospital.
In terms of acting the three characters fluctuate in their performance making it quite difficult to make up one’s mind up about how good or bad they were. Rajkumar Pudasaini, a famous actor from Gurukul, manages to put up a show as Sam but for anyone who has seen him act in Nepali plays would agree that his acting ability wasn’t explored to the maximum on this stage.
“I had no qualms with learning the dialogues or my acting but because this was my first play in English, I had a little trouble reacting to my co-actor’s delivery,” says Pudasaini about his performance.
Alan Gurung makes his debut as Hally and does a so-so job in portraying an intelligent yet emotionally troubled young boy. Though his dialogue delivery was at par with the other two experienced actors, there were instances where he had a blank expression on his face.
Ashant Sharma, typical to the role he has played provides multiple comic reliefs in the play and seems most comfortable doing an English play as he has the experience of working in several Studio 7 plays.
The set, however, does deserve a special mention as the set designer had done a fantastic job in turning the hall of Moksh Live into a tea room and the actors interacted with the props marvelously.
Having said that Master Harold…. and the boys does compel the audience to dwell deep into themselves as it raises questions about how accepting we are as people and how we use our defense mechanism to protect ourselves from getting hurt through very simple instances and causal references.