This South African apartheid-era drama, inspired by a true story, is set in a prison and revolves around two cellmates: one who is soon to be released while the other is serving a life sentence. They spend their days at mind-numbing physical labour and at night rehearse for a performance of Sophocles‘ Antigone. Antigone, who defies the laws of the state to follow her conscience, and her uncle who sentences her to die for her crime. Is Antigone guilty? Who decides?
The Freedom Theatre’s adaptation of The Island reflects the experiences of Palestinian political prisoners and the abuses within the Israeli prison system. The play also highlights the parallels between apartheid South Africa and Palestine today. The separation, the denial of basic human and political rights, the discrimination and oppression that is evident in countless aspects of daily life.
The Island is a testament to the importance of culture as a tool for resistance, and for humanity. Despite the prisoners’ circumstances their souls are thirsty and art is the water that keeps them alive. In Palestine, as in apartheid South Africa, we need to keep ourselves alive.
I am happy to hear that The Freedom Theatre of Jenin Refugee Camp has found relevance in the situation in South Africa in the ‘70’s when the play was written to highlight the struggle of the black people of South Africa.[…] I hope that the people who see your production tonight will find the relevance that moved us in the ‘70’s. […] Let the applause ring out tonight as loud as it did when we first performed The Island in 1973. I am sorry I can’t be in the audience tonight but I will be there in spirit. – John Kani, co-writer of The Island and actor.
They made me laugh, they made me cry! I have never seen the prisoner’s issue addressed through art in such a wonderful, sensitive, emotional and strong way. – Audience member
The Island is supported by Sida, as part of the PAN program, and the Swedish Postcode Lottery.