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The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek Review – Riveting Portrayal of South Africa’s Apartheid Days

By Ester Benjamin Shifren

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Athol Fugard's new play, “The Painted Rocks at Relvolver Creek”, is a fictional piece, loosely inspired by the life of South African outsider artist Nukain Mabuza. Set in Mpumalanga Province in 1981, we are introduced in the first half to Nukain (Thomas Silcott) a laborer for an Afrikaner farmer couple, and Bokkie (Philip Solomon), his young companion and aide.

The bent and aging Nukain, according to Bokkie's count, has painted 105 rocks that dot the desolate, dry countryside, calling the brightly colored vivid shapes his "flowers". Nukain has set his sights on a mammoth rock on which he wishes to paint his final work, a representation of his life of travail and hardship as a black man suffering brutal injustice, racism, and poverty under the yoke of Apartheid.



He started the pleasurable task of painting the "flowers" years before, but now he is reluctant to start work on the mammoth stone standing before him. He feels frightened, uninspired and unable to get started with the final challenge of painting the giant stone. The rambunctious Bokkie has unloaded paint and brushes and, addressing Nukain with filial affection as Tata, cajoles and pleads with him, "Two Sundays now we come here with everything, but Tata does nothing! Just sits and stares at the big one!"



On this Sunday morning Nukain reflects and relates his story to Bokkie telling how he walked, and walked, and walked the country as a young man, desperately searching for work. While Nukain details his personal suffering, and evokes images of the collective suffering of generations of black South Africans, he and Bokkie even manage to sing a short song together. He tells Bokkie to paint the stone, and the boy jumps eagerly to help when Nukain once again shows signs of finding inspiration.



"We are going to give the big one eyes, so that he can see me now when I stand here!" Nukain is thrilled! As they paint the rock together, the multi-colored bright, bold lines and stick figure become an abstract visual record of Nukain's life story. Finally, he paints a vibrant rainbow looming over everything. He stands in front of the stone, proclaiming loudly, "I am a man!"



Their moment of exultation is short-lived by the sudden arrival on the scene of Elmarie Kleynhans (Suanne Spoke), wife of the farm owner. She has returned from Church services and brought them some left-over food. She orders Nukain to wash off this atypical, disdainful new painting, and to replace it with a “flower” painting.

Bokkie vehemently protests, pleading that, "It's his story, it's Tata's story!" Elmarie, incensed by this insubordination, tells Nukain to remove his (non-existent) belt and "Teach him a lesson!"

"They got eyes but they do not see us," Nukain says sadly, referring to the white farmers for whom he works.




In act two, twenty-two years later, time and the elements have faded and nearly washed the mammoth stone clean of color.

Bokkie, whose actual name is Jonathan Sejake, is now a grown man (Gilbert Glenn Brown), who has lived many years in Zimbabwe, and is now a schoolteacher. He returns with paints and brushes to the site of Nukain's painted "flowers", hoping to restore Nukain’s work and honor his life. Before he can begin painting, Elmarie arrives, brandishes a gun, and calls for help. Apartheid has ended, but area farmers are being ruthlessly attacked and killed. Widespread anger remains over land redistribution.



The ensuing last scene is reminiscent of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process. A traumatized and isolated Elmarie struggles with Jonathan's attempt to open her eyes to the injustice and brutality of South Africa's past Apartheid system.



Athol Fugard has had a long and distinguished career as a master storyteller, and once again proved himself an expert in portraying with insight and honesty the dark history of Apartheid in South Africa.

Superbly performed by the entire cast, with a particularly powerful performance by talented young Philip Solomon, as Bokkie. I suspect he has a wonderful career curve ahead! Kudos to the entire production team of “The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek”, a true theatrical gem.


The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek — In the West Coast premiere of the newest play by Athol Fugard, aging farm laborer Nukain has spent his life transforming the rocks at Revolver Creek into a vibrant garden of painted flowers. Now, the presence of the final unpainted rock, as well as his young companion Bokkie, has forced Nukain to confront his legacy as an artist and a black man in 1980s South Africa.


• Written by Athol Fugard
 • Directed by Simon Levy

• Starring Gilbert Glenn Brown, Thomas Silcott, Philip Solomon and Suanne Spoke

• Produced by Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor
 • Associate producer James Bennett

• Presented by The Fountain Theatre


Set design is by Jeffrey McLaughlin; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; props are by Dillon Nelson; dialect coach is Nike Doukas; assistant stage manager is Terri Roberts; production stage manager is Rita Cofield


Performances: Nov. 7 - Dec. 14

Thursdays at 8 p.m.:

Fridays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 30, Nov. 6 (previews), 13, 20, Dec. 4, 11 (dark Nov. 27)

Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 7 (opening), 14, 21, 28; Dec. 5, 12 (dark Oct. 31)

Sundays at 3 p.m.: Nov. 1 (preview), 8, 15, 22, 29; Dec. 6, 13

Sundays at 7 p.m.: Nov. 15, 22, 29; Dec. 6, 13 (no 7 p.m. performance on Nov. 8)

Mondays at 8 p.m.: Nov. 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; Dec. 7, 14



The Fountain Theatre

5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029
(Fountain at Normandie)



(323) 663-1525 or at Fountain theatre

• Like us in facebook: www.facebook.com/TheFountainTheatre

• Follow us on twitter: @fountaintheatre

• Instagram: https://instagram.com/fountaintheatre/


TICKET PRICES:$15-$34.95:

• Premium Seats: $34.95 (VIP center section, includes 1 free beverage)

• Regular Seating: $30 (side sections)

• Seniors 65 or older: $27 (side sections)

• Students: $20 (valid ID required)

• RUSH: $15 (at the door, 15 mins prior to curtain, subject to availability)

Pay-What-You-Can every Monday night


Secure, on-site parking: $5


Published on Nov 11, 2015

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