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Exits and Entrances

Desiré Goliath*

Production: Exits and Entrances
A play by Athol Fugard
Directed by Janice Honeyman
Cast: Sean Taylor and Jason Ralph
Dates: Previews on 13, 14, 15 July at 20:15
Opening on Saturday 16 July at 20:15, thereafter nightly at 20:15 till Saturday, 6 August
Bookings: Through Computicket or the Baxter Theatre Centre on (021) 680 3989. For block bookings, charities, predinner show packages and fund-raisers, please contact Sharon on (021) 680 3962.

From legendary South African playwright Athol Fugard comes his latest masterpiece, Exits and Entrances, an autobiographical tribute to South Africa's great stage actor André Huguenet, who gave Fugard his first job as an actor.

"André was very important to me in terms of my awareness of theatre. The fact that he was a visionary might well have been the provocation that I needed to formulate a vision of my own," Fugard says.

The South African premiere of Exits and Entrances at the Baxter Theatre Centre from 13 July to 6 August is in the hands of award-winning director Janice Honeyman (Hello and Goodbye, Nothing But the Truth, Twaalfde Nag) and features the experienced Sean Taylor (Playland, King Lear, Equus) as Huguenet and Jason Ralph (Hamlet, "Master Harold"… and the Boys, Skyf) as the young playwright. Top South African designer Saul Radomsky (Poison, Kat and the Kings) is in charge of the set design, and the lighting design will be handled by theatre icon Mannie Manim, responsible for the lighting of numerous award-winning productions, both in South Africa and abroad.

The play focuses on the exit of Huguenet - at the end of his creative life - and the entrance of Fugard, just starting his career as a playwright.

Set in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town in 1956 and 1961, the intimate, two-character play chronicles the friendship between the young, idealistic playwright and the older actor struggling unhappily to find meaning and dignity in his fading career.

André Huguenet, who was known at one time as the Laurence Olivier of the South African stage, was found dead in his sister's home in 1961.

Exits and Entrances had its world premiere at The Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles in 2004 to much critical acclaim, winning the LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards for best world premiere, best lead actor and best director.

"We just thought it was an achingly beautiful play about the theatre and passion and why we do what we do as theatre artists," Stephen Sachs, the director of the Los Angeles production, said.

After its season at the Baxter Theatre Centre, Exits and Entrances travels to Pretoria for a three-week run at the State Theatre and thereafter to Johannesburg for a four-week run in the Barney Simon Theatre at the Market Theatre. The Market Theatre season celebrates the first Baxter production to travel to Johannesburg since another Athol Fugard classic, "Master Harold"… and the Boys, played at the Liberty Theatre on the Square in April 2000.

More about Huguenet
André Huguenet was born Gerhardus Petrus Borstlap in Bloemfontein in 1906. As a child he won many prizes for elocution. His acting career began when he was 20 years old, and at 25 he formed his own acting company - one of many to come - performing new plays and the classics in Afrikaans. By the mid-1930s Huguenet was a famous Afrikaans actor and producer. Also accomplished in English, he toured the United States, Europe and Russia. His performance as Hamlet in 1947 in Afrikaans was the climax of his career and earned him the Queen's Coronation Medal. His autobiography, Applous, appeared in 1950, the same year he starred as Hassan to great acclaim in London, becoming the first South African actor to be invited to England for a specific part.

His career in the theatre was marked by great successes, yet marred by painful financial failures. Despite these, he celebrated his thirtieth year on the stage in 1956 with a rousing production of Oedipus Rex in English, followed by a production in Afrikaans. By 1959 he was financially and physically ruined. In 1960 he appeared as King Lear, and in April 1961 brought his long and sometimes disheartening theatre career to a close with an outstanding performance as The Prisoner.

Huguenet struggled with despair and loneliness. He was found dead in his sister's home on 15 June 1961. The André Huguenet Theatre in Bloemfontein is named in his honour. Pieter Toerien also named a Johannesburg theatre after him.

*Media Liaison - Baxter Marketing Department

LitNet: 18 July 2005

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