Brand : Athol Fugard

The Captain's Tiger

Michael j. mazza |

A young writer's coming of age

"the captain's tiger: a memoir for the stage" is a superb play by south african writer athol fugard. the production history notes that the play received its american premiere in 1998. it's a lean four-character play; the author's note states that two of the characters (the author and the tiger) must be performed by the same actor. the play begins with the author recalling how, in 1952, he was a young man on a cargo steamship. his job was to be the captain's tiger--"a sort of glorified servant." most of the play actually takes place during this earlier period. while serving on the ship, the tiger begins to write a novel based on the young womanhood of his afrikaner mother. he strikes up a friendship with the donkeyman, a black african man who works in the engineroom. the other key relationship is between the tiger and betty, the main character in his novel. she literally comes to life and has some lively exchanges with the ambitious young writer. this is a marvelous play. it examines what it means to be an author. fugard looks at the relationship between the author and his characters, as well as the relationships between the author and the "real" people in his life. this is a coming-of-age story, a story of a friendship that overcomes a language barrier, and is also about coming to terms with painful aspects of one's past. i have never seen this piece actually performed, but i can say that it is an excellent text for reading.