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No Easy Walk


Stage and Television Today, 9th May 1968, Ann Purser


No Easy Walk, last weeks ABC Armchair Theatre play by Guy Slater, took a bunch of liberal white South Africans and a visiting English student, put them together, stirred them around a bit, and waited for the explosion.


It came, such as it was, when Aaron Stollmeyer (Arne Gordon) was forced by student (Michael Pennington) to abandon his peaceful revolutionary methods and run like a dog from the police.  Adrian had come from England full of zeal for action and could not understand why these would-be revolutionaries were doing so little.  His blundering enthusiasm was shown to be destructive and harmful, and because of him two young men went to prison and a happy family was torn apart.


It is certainly not for me to criticise the motives involved in writing such a play, but as a piece of television drama it was clumsy and confused.  The action limped along, occasional bursts of movement followed by flat explanatory scenes, unreal characters mouthing given attitudes - the white girl who thinks it daring to be at a “mixed” party, the black man full of laughing anger against the laws of his county.  The only original and therefore interesting character was van Huyts (Michael Turner), a Cape coloured (I gathered) schoolmaster who was in the end more rigidly held in place by his society than any black slave.


I am sure there was a message, a lesson to be learned.  When a government is as strong as in South Africa, it is only the most secret and subversive tactics that are likely to succeed.  Rash action will end in pointless prison sentences, confining those who should be free to work against the regime.


I think we were meant to fume with Adrian against the feeble ineffectiveness of the “safe” revolutionaries, but apart from recognising the inept bunglings of the middle class, we were given no real cause for anger.


The hygienic westernised coloured characters were as dislikeable as the whites.  Aaron’s wife Naomi (Hazel Penwarden) shouted accusingly, “This is your Spain, your bloody redemption”, but it was difficult to see the Cause, the atmosphere was as flat and unexciting as the South African voice itself.



“The Listener” - 9th May 1968


ABC’s Armchair Theatre production, No Easy Walk, could have been more too, if only it could have spread itself over more than an hour.  Guy Slater, a playwright new to me, had an admirable subject.  A young English Student (played well by Michael Pennington) goes to South Africa to stay with a cautiously liberal family, comes into contact with a wide variety of anti-apartheid workers, sleeps with a coloured girl as a pleasurable mode of protest, then inveighs against his hosts for proceeding so slowly towards a free Africa: why don’t they hurl bombs in ministerial windows, lot of bloody cowards as they are?  The intellectual, as opposed to physical, climax was exciting: one felt the authentic prickle at the back of the neck.  Host confronts guest to show how cheap, phoney, ineffectual, ultimately treacherous the protest shouts of cushioned British youth really are:  one doesn’t smash a regime with a hand-grenade.  When the arrogant student finally becomes involved in a bit of nocturnal slogan-painting and proudly announces that he is to be deported for his naughtiness, we see that he has dropped everybody in the soup and put back the cause by God knows how long.


If this had been a longer play, there would have been an opportunity to round out the characters and make them more than morality fascias.  It might have been possible to make Cape Town more than a BLANKES --- NIE BLANKES airport exit and a couple of supra-regional interiors.  But, in the sinfully narrow confines of a merely anecdotal length, something of South Africa did come across -- notably the modes of speech, the weird combinations of homely and exotic in the tropes and the vowels.


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