"Master Harold"...and the boys
by The Westminster Players

It’s one thing to create a fictional character who must face his mistakes, weaknesses, and regrets. Playwright Athol Fugard faces his own in “Master Harold”…and the boys. Inspired, and haunted, by his own treatment of black servants in his youth, he wove this play around a powerful incident in his own life. 

The group from The Westminster Players left Atlanta, Georgia and went out to Fugard’s home in Del Mar, California to talk firsthand about the background on the play, his experiences with the two former servants on which the play is based, and interview him about his goals as a playwright – video clips from which preceded their show. 

The show itself builds the tension slowly as young Hally enters St. George’s Park Tea Room to find the forty-something Sam teaching the younger Willie how to dance. It quickly becomes clear that Hally sees Sam as sort of a father figure, someone he truly cared for growing up. They share a strong memory of Sam making him a kite and teaching him how to fly it, Hally recalling the disappointment when Sam mysteriously left him alone to fly it, the thrill of seeing and feeling the kite whipping about in the air like a living thing, the sadness when he finally brought it down, lying on the ground like a thing that had lost its soul. 

But a few statements here and there give you glimpses into a cruel, juvenile superiority he feels towards the servants, and the disrespect and hostility he feels towards his parents, yelling at his mother and detesting the idea of bringing back home his crippled father from the hospital. As the conversation turns from light philosophical musings to disagreements about how Haley treats his parents, the ugly side of Hally comes out more and more, and you know the relationship between Hally and Sam is in jeopardy. 

James Franch, an eighth grader from Westminster Junior High, is Hally, doing a very nice job as the petulant young man lashing out at the people he loves. His temper, unresolved hurts, and perhaps a lack of self-confidence beginning to override the more amiable side we see he is capable of. You sense the internal struggles, but are disgusted by his growing hostility towards and humiliation of Willie and Sam. 

Omar Ingram is Willie, the younger, easier target for Halley, who takes the humiliations, including the spanking with a stick, with quiet acquiescence that this is just the way it is, and he must endure it politely. Hampton Fluker is Sam, giving a riveting performance as the fatherly, mature figure in the play who tries to gently help the immature Hally from being his own worst enemy by tearing apart his relationship with the people who love him. Hampton always seems to be thinking before he speaks, cautiously and realistically trying to lead Hally away from the brink, trying different tactics, desperate both for Hally’s soul and his own. You feel his desperation begin to border on despair as the verbal exchange spirals out of his control and as Hally lies on the brink of forever becoming Master Harold.

Performed June 25, 2008.

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Hally: James Franch
Sam: Hampton Fluker
Willie: Omar Ingram

Director: Eric Brannen


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