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Iconic play to tour the North 50 years after its premiere in Apartheid South Africa

Jan 27, 2023 | Leisure & Lifestyle

A play set on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent nearly two decades in prison is set to tour the North of England on the fiftieth anniversary of its first ever staging in Apartheid South Africa.

Elysium Theatre Company, based in Durham, will bring The Island, by Athol Fugard, to 15 venues across the region in its biggest tour to date, half a century after its first performance in Cape Town in 1973.

Set in the notorious prison for political prisoners on Robben Island, ‘The Island’ was inspired by real life experiences of black anti-Apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned there for 18 years.

The two-person play was written by legendary playwright Fugard, along with the stars of the original production, actor-activists John Kani and Winston Ntshona, and came to England – to London’s Royal Court – after its debut at Cape Town’s Space Theatre, where it made theatrical history by being part of a season which defied Apartheid’s racial laws banning black and white people from working together.

It became part of a global anti-Apartheid protest, with campaigners distributing pamphlets outside the Royal Court Theatre on its first run in the UK, before transferring to Broadway.

Half a century later, and Durham-based Elysium Theatre Company is touring this iconic production to 15 venues across the North of England, bringing this inspiring play to new a new generation of audiences.

Please see the attached press release for more information, as well as a selection of images.