‘Hello and Goodbye’ and questions of relevance

By Andy Rice 24 July 2010

You can tell a lot about a play from the conversation in the bar afterwards. With Athol Fugard’s “Hello and Goodbye”, the bar-talk had two themes - it’s a wonderful vehicle for the actors, but the play itself is stuck in an era that faded long ago.

The drama was first performed more than four decades ago as a powerful piece of social commentary. Its themes of family discord, buried resentments, poverty and hopeless dreams still form the essence of domestic life for many people today. Yet the tales its characters tell from its setting in 1963 have lost their relevance. That leaves some recognisable emotions hanging in a period piece to which today’s younger audiences will not relate.

“Hello and Goodbye” is set in a grimy house in Port Elizabeth, where Johnnie Smit (Michael Maxwell) is teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He speaks to himself in ranting, disjointed sentences. Taps incessantly to calm himself, recites the route he often walks to bring some sense of order to his disordered brain. He paces about the kitchen debating whether he’s going mad, looking a wreck both mentally and physically in dishevelled trousers and stained vest.

Maxwell plays him brilliantly, giving the character an untamed erratic edge that could flip into anger or apathy at the slightest push.

That push comes from his sister, Hester (Dorothy Ann Gould) who deserted the hated house years ago and ekes out a living as a prostitute in Johannesburg. She’s coarse and common, sharp and resentful, and still gives her little brother a hard time as they rake over old memories. Hester fled after her mother died and her domineering father was crippled in a railway accident. Now she’s back, desperate for a share of the money her father was awarded in compensation.

As the drama unfolds we see how Johnnie sacrificed his own dreams to look after his crippled father, leaving him with an empty and now useless life.

Gould is also outstanding, switching from hate to hurt and from anger to total vulnerability as siblings haul out boxes full of tatty goods and lingering memories in search of the money.

The husband-and-wife team of Maxwell and Gould spark off each other superbly. The wordy and intense production is flawlessly executed and unfolds on a stage set that’s entirely reminiscent of the times.

Yet it’s a play you experience, rather than enjoy, and I left feeling I had watched a sad snapshot of history.

By Lesley Stones

Read more of Lesley’s writing at her great website.


Watch Pauli van Wyk’s Cat Play The Piano Here!

No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.

Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.

It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.

But our job is not yet done. We need more readers to become Maverick Insiders, the friends who will help ensure that many more investigations will come. Contributions go directly towards growing our editorial team and ensuring that Daily Maverick and Scorpio have a sustainable future. We can’t rely on advertising and don't want to restrict access to only those who can afford a paywall subscription. Membership is about more than just contributing financially – it is about how we Defend Truth, together.

So, if you feel so inclined, and would like a way to support the cause, please join our community of Maverick Insiders.... you could view it as the opposite of a sin tax. And if you are already Maverick Insider, tell your mother, call a friend, whisper to your loved one, shout at your boss, write to a stranger, announce it on your social network. The battle for the future of South Africa is on, and you can be part of it.


Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.


Julius Malema, a forever ten percent man?

By Stephen Grootes

"Whatever the cost of our libraries the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." ~ Walter Cronkite