The Shadow of the Hummingbird showcases the layered meanings and internal contemplation synonymous with the iconic Athol Fugard. It has been a widely anticipated production, driven by the joy of seeing Athol Fugard on stage again, perhaps for the last time.
Fugard’s directing and writing have not diminished with age. His writing is still as fresh and thought provoking as when he came into theatre more than half a century ago.
The story of The Shadow of the Hummingbird is a simple one: a grandfather, Oupa (Athol Fugard), reminisces over his life, and tries to explain his pursuit of his longed for his innocence to his grandson, Boba (Marviantoz Baker).
The set on stage, designed by the acclaimed Saul Radomsky, portrays a typical oupa’s home, the furniture comfortable but old, the books dogeared and worn. Yet it is a warm room, filled with sunlight and memories.
Athol Fugard carries the play; continuously talking, searching for the particular diary entry which highlights his thought of chasing the shadows of the world, shadows which represent both the harsh realities of adulthood and the purity of childhood.
Oupa, we learn, prefers to watch the shadow of a hummingbird, rather than look at the reality of it and thereby place it into a catalogued box of knowledge. As Oupa explains, the loss of innocence is marked by the simple realisation that you cannot pick up and eat a shadow – and it is this innocence to which he longs to return.
The hummingbird is shown with clever, mobile lighting by Mannie Manim and brought to life with sounds by James Webb. Once Boba comes on stage, the mood turns lighter with a mock fight. A discussion of Plato’s allegory of the cave demonstrates to Boba the wonder of innocence before knowledge takes over. Oupa’s frustruations with old age and heavy knowledge only ease with the presence and love for his grandson.
The level of the acting and the emotions evoked in the audience make for a wonderful theatre experience.
While the The Shadow of the Hummingbird is now sold out in Cape Town, the play has two more runs at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg and the PACOFS in Bloemfontein.
The Shadow of the Hummingbird runs at The Fugard Studio until 26 July 2014.