Although it is set in a timeless, mythic Greece, Dimetos is still a characteristic Athol Fugard play exploring issues of freedom and love, often unrequited. It has deep meanings that applied perfectly to the problems in his native South Africa in the 1970s when it was written.
The writing is poetic and opaque and the story heavily allegorical. The surface meanings lead to deep philosophical thought about the nature and meaning of life in general and more specifically in a tragically divided South Africa.
Dimetos (Trevor Sellers) is an engineer who has chosen to escape his native city and time. He has moved with his devoted housekeeper, Laura Cox's Sophia, and his beautiful, innocent niece (Lydia), played with great tenderness by Shireen Patrice, to a primitive village where time has stopped in the Iron Age.
While all three persuade themselves that they are happy with their elemental existence, the visit of Danilo (Rhydian Jones) from the city to try and entice Dimetos ("a prophet in the wilderness") to return, changes everything. They begin to realise what they are missing and their happy balance is lost as the rich city symbolically rapes the poor, pure country.
The first act ends as Lydia commits suicide. The second explores the guilt that each of the others feels for her action and the different types of unacceptable love that led to it.
This is not an easy play to understand fully but it is deeply thought-provoking and very well acted under the direction of Ben Ormerod, better known for his lighting design. Inevitably, the lighting from Mark Truebridge is superb, creating many striking images, often in harmony with a blue screen that creates a cinematic effect.
The Gate is to be congratulated for resurrecting a forgotten part of the Fugard canon. Its take on society and its component parts is well worth another look and sheds light on his more famous work.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher