Ideas for his characters may come from people he meets or sees, but on the whole he spends a lot of time creating them, imagining a back story for them so that he can feel how they will react in different circumstances. The more time he spends with them the more real they become and sometimes he is even surprised by how they react.
For those who know South Africa, Veronica’s revelations highlight serious issues in contemporary politics - AIDS, migrant workers and xenophobia, the removal of people from District Six to the Cape Flats, and the increasing drug-fuelled crime in the Cape Flats – but Fugard avoids the political harangue and refers to them obliquely through Veronica’s confession to Alfred.
In 1981 Klaff was younger and leaner and apartheid still reigned. A state of emergency had been imposed after the Soweto uprising of 1976 and the anti-apartheid movement was at its height in Britain and elsewhere. Today the ANC rules and the roles have been somewhat reversed. Afrikaners live in fear for their lives.
The film poses two views on prejudice and identity: the liberal but ultimately unconvincing view of the priest who protests it should make no difference; and the conservative view of Katrina’s brother, who like the producer Emil Nofal, believes one should be proud of one’s identity and not betray it. ‘You are born what you are, and for your lifespan that is what you are going to be.’
He is looking forward to returning laden with presents to his wife and two daughters back home in Newcastle for the first time in two years, and is closing up at the end of the night when two white men, punch drunk after a boisterous party, roar onto the forecourt of the diner on a bike.
‘Crayons?!!!’ she asked incredulously, ‘what are they for?’ ‘So you can express your feelings’ she was told. As an established writer and author of fourteen books, including the bestselling Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch she was incensed. This infantilisation of adults in the face of what was for her a frighteningly traumatic experience made her want to throw up.
Projects that involve children in learning how to be a DJ or how to write rap and dance to hip-hop are no doubt enjoyable for the children involved, but will not transform their reality. In many instances, this is the only reality they know. The El Sistema approach, by contrast, would have forced them to engage with a different more rigorous tradition than the one they have grown up with
‘India has been successful in producing the Tata car to replace the rickshaws that many people have to depend on for transport. The Indian people want cars not rickshaws. Now we’re bringing their rickshaws to central London. What’s that about? We should be happy for the Chinese and the Indians.’