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Jail Diary of Albie Sachs


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A: David Edgar Pf: 1978, London Pb: 1978 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Cells in Cape Town prisons, seaside, and Albie's office, 1963–6 C: 18mAlbie Sachs, a 29-year-old lawyer who has dared to speak out against the arbitrary exercise of law under apartheid, is confined to a concrete cell and given only the Bible to read. He refuses to answer questions from the Special Branch Officers, especially when they assert that he has been to sabotage school. Albie finds ways of overcoming the boredom of being in solitary confinement. At the end of the 90-day period during which suspects can legally be detained, he is released and immediately rearrested. While being no militant, he understands the need for armed struggle. He strikes up a relationship with Synman, the Station Commander, who talks of the oppression that the Afrikaners suffered under British rule. After 138 days in detention, Albie's mind starts to deteriorate. He is persuaded that any information he might have is now useless, and that the authorities simply want to break his resistance. He is about to answer questions, when he learns that the Sergeant once cruelly murdered a black servant and was sentenced to just two years' prison. Albie is eventually released then arrested two years later. This time, tortured by sleep deprivation, he confesses. He is finally released and leaves for England.

A: David Edgar Pf: 1978, London Pb: 1978 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Cells in Cape Town prisons, seaside, and Albie's office, 1963–6 C: 18m

Adapted from Sachs's Jail Diary, this episodic piece with lengthy monologues is probably the most successful anti-apartheid play by a non-South African. At a time when so-called democracies, in the wake of 9/11, detain terrorist suspects without trial or legal representation, the piece is perhaps due for revival.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Authors

David Edgar (b. 1948)


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