POST: 'Master Harold and the Boys' - a racial mirror, meant to reveal all
What's it about?
Master Harold and the Boys while sounding cheerful in nature is an account of an African man assuming the role of a Caucasian child's absent alcoholic and paralytic father (sheesh that character was a mess). Question is - can such a bond overpower racial tension in a time potent with racial bias?
What'd I experience?
Beware: Racial Revelation
Sit me in my seat, pour some gasoline and light the match of awkwardness to set me on fire - and there you have it. This was genuinely one of the most awkward experiences I've ever had at a production. Now there could be several contributors to this. It could be that I sat in a theatre where I felt like an obvious minority, most of my theatregoing counterparts were white, and though I don't generally mention race or factor it into my theatregoing experience I have to say in a play about racism, doesn't exactly make me feel comfortable.
Now here's a disclaimer: I'm Hispanic which makes the whole race thing pretty sticky. I'm like that gray line in the whole race issue and when I try to side with what I believe to be right, I've been told by others that I just can't identify. So there I was, awkwardly in my seat, watching two black men on stage getting taunted for the duration of an hour and thirty minutes by a snobby privileged tween. Ugh. Sounds fun, huh?
I noticed the play stuck to stereotypes which made me question what that was trying to communicate to me. Did they feel it was the best way people could relate: with the ugly familiar?
If there's one thing I could celebrate it would be that the black men maintained their class in such a horrid situation, until a pivotal breaking point which painted the reality of the whole play: racism in South Africa and the inability to accept it. It made me sad to see two moral and caring black men pushed to the point of rage by an indifferent jerky white kid. I know I'm using black and white and it may be creating a sense of discomfort in not using socially correct terms but the truth is that was simply what the play communicated. Black, white: the polar difference.
The experience was altogether eye opening and at some points I try to convince myself it didn't happen. There were things I tried to omit from this article like a person in front of me who nodded in approval when the white kid called the black person the most racist term you could name. I had to tug at my friend and whisper if he saw what I did: he responded a nervous "Yes". I didn't think it could happen. Not at theatre I didn't think I'd want to run out. Stuff like that: real world stuff in a place I considered to be a celebration of thought made me feel chained. Not so much to reality but to the ugliness of the reality, that a play which took place decades ago could reveal the contempt of that woman in front of me. And I think that was exactly its purpose, it was a racial mirror meant to reveal all.