by Athol Fugard

Wednesday, 27 February – Saturday, 23 March 2019

★★★★★ The Spy in the Stalls
★★★★★ London Pub Theatres
★★★★ Broadway World
★★★★ Plays to See
★★★★ Londonist
★★★★ BritishTheatre.com
★★★★ Morning Star
★★★★ Paul In London

OffWestEnd Award nomination for Best Lighting: Mannie Manin

The first London production in 35 years

A Lesson From Aloes is now completely sold out for the entire run

For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here.

For details of any other additional performances, any last minute ticket releases and to join our mailing list, please email us at admin@finboroughtheatre.co.uk or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

“…Our race is a mistake.”

In the small backyard of a house in a shabby Port Elizabeth suburb, pots of aloe – the desert plant that can thrive in the most barren soil – bear silent witness to a world where trust has been betrayed and destroyed.

South Africa in the 1960s. Apartheid is at its height. Mandela’s ANC has just been banned as a terrorist organisation. Informers are everywhere. 

Left leaning Afrikaner Piet and his wife, Gladys, hold a party for their mixed-race friend Steve who has just been released from prison.

But when mistrust creeps into your own backyard, the closest of ties are undone. Who has betrayed this group of friends? And why is one of them on a one way ticket out of the country?

Unseen in London since its UK premiere at the National Theatre 35 years ago where it was directed by Athol Fugard himself and won rave reviews, this new production directed by Janet Suzman marks the 25th anniversary year of the first free and democratic elections in South Africa.

The original production of A Lesson From Aloes premiered at the Market Theatre Johannesburg in 1978, where it provoked huge controversy and narrowly escaped being banned. The Broadway production won the New York Critics Circle Award for Best New Play.

The cast of this new production comprises Dawid Minnaar as Piet, David Rubin as Steve and Janine Ulfane as Gladys, with set and costumes by Norman Coates and lighting by the legendary South African lighting designer, producer and co-founder of The Market Theatre in Johannesburg, Mannie Manim.


Discussions are after the evening performance and are free to ticketholders for that evening's performance. Saturday, 9 March 2019


Playwright Athol Fugard has been working in the theatre as a playwright, director and actor in South Africa, England and the United States for over fifty years. In June 2011, he received a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award. In November 2011, he was the inaugural Humanitas Visiting Professor of Drama at Oxford University, and in 2014 he was awarded the Praemium Imperiale Award from the Japan Art Association. His newest play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, was presented in 2016 at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. The Road to Mecca was recently revived on Broadway starring Rosemary Harris, Carla Gugino and Jim Dale. Theatre includes No-Good Friday, Nongogo, Blood Knot, Hello and Goodbye, People are Living, There, Boesman and Lena, Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, Dimetos, The Island, Master Harold… and the Boys, A Place With the Pigs, My Children! My Africa!, Playland, Valley Song, The Captain’s Tiger, Sorrows and Rejoicings, Exits and Entrances, Victory, Coming Home, The Train Driver, The Bird Watchers and The Blue Iris.


Director Janet Suzman’s long stage, film and TV career started with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s all-day Wars of the Roses, followed by many major roles for them at Stratford and the Aldwych Theatre, including Cleopatra in 1972/3. In 1980, she returned to the Aldwych Theatre in Clytemnaestra and Helen of Troy as part of John Barton’s all-day decathlon, The Greeks (Royal Shakespeare Company). Her portrayal of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler on television and onstage at the Duke of York’s Theatre was chosen as the Play for Today series on the BBC's Fiftieth Anniversary celebrations. Suzman has won the Evening Standard Award twice for roles in plays by Athol Fugard and Anton Chekhov and was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Nicholas and Alexandra. Film includes Joe Egg, The Clayhanger Trilogy, Mountbatten - Last Viceroy of India, The Draughtsman’s Contract, The Singing Detective, A Dry White Season, The Black Windmill and E La Nave Va. Theatre as director includes Othello (Market Theatre, Johannesburg), Hamlet (Baxter Theatre, Cape Town, and Royal Shakespeare Company) and Antony and Cleopatra starring Kim Cattrall (Liverpool Playhouse and Chichester Festival Theatre). She also appeared at the Finborough Theatre as an actor in Craig Higginson’s Dream of the Dog, followed by its subsequent West End transfer.


Dawid Minnaar | Piet

Dawid Minnaar has worked extensively on stage and in television and film in South Africa, both in English and Afrikaans. Theatre includes three productions under the direction of William Kentridge in collaboration with The Handspring Puppet Company - Faustus in Africa, Ubu and The Truth Commission and Zeno at 4am. These productions all had extensive international tours. His other English language stage work has mostly been for the Market Theatre, Johannesburg, most recently Athol Fugard's The Train Driver.

David Rubin | Steve

Theatre includes Woyzeck (The Old Vic), People, Places and Things (National Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre), Five Guys Named Moe (Lyric Theatre), Stomp (Royal Festival Hall and Athens) Godspell (Barbican Theatre), The Threepenny Opera, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It and Twelfth Night (National Theatre), and Tamburlaine, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, two productions of Julius Caesar, Morte D’Arthur, Titus Andronicus, A Mad World My Masters, The Grain Store, and American Trade (Royal Shakespeare Company).

Janine Ulfane | Gladys

Theatre includes A Part of Me (Jermyn Street Theatre), The Mercy Seat (Pleasance London), Strindberg’s Apartment (New Diorama Theatre), Daniel Deronda (Gatehouse Theatre), The Guests (Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond), Play (Riverside Studios) and Betrayal, The Real Thing, War and A Play in Swedish, English and Italian (Dramaten and Strindberg's Intima Teatern, Stockholm). Film includes Noche Flamenca.



Discussions are after the evening performance and are free to ticketholders for that evening's performance. Saturday, 9 March 2019

James Basson
Based in the South of France, James has established a reputation for creating low maintenance, dry gardens that mix contemporary design with traditional skills. Creating timeless sustainable landscapes, that are sympathetic to the natural environment. We use young plants that are compatible with the native climate and soil, requiring little if any, irrigation.  We accept commissions in France, UK and Internationally. James has won awards at the RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court shows.       

Colin Walker
Biologist and plant enthusiast, Colin Walker has a long-standing interest in succulent plants and aloes in particular. He began growing succulent plants as a schoolboy fifty years ago and this has grown into a life-long passion. Until his retirement he was a lecturer at The Open University at which he retains Honorary Associate status. Colin has a broad knowledge of the world of cacti and succulents but his research interests focus on the classification and diversity of succulents. He maintains a notable collection of plants at home and enjoys showing locally and nationally. He has observed these plants in habitat in several countries, including South Africa and has contributed to workshops on aloe at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town. He publishes widely in specialist hobby and scientific journals and regularly gives presentations on succulents, notably at international conferences. In 2011 he was one of four authors of Aloes – The Definitive Guide, published by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. For twelve years he was editor of Bradleya, scientific yearbook of the British Cactus and Succulent Society. He currently contributes to the revised edition of the multi-author encyclopaedia Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants. For five years he has been President of the British Cactus and Succulent Society and is a fellow of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America.


“A marvellous piece of theatre…utterly mesmeric.” Richard Braine, London Pub Theatres

“Bruisingly intimate portrait of lives devastated by oppression and struggle.” Tom Wicker, Time Out

“A great piece of work all round.” Richard Braine, London Pub Theatres

“A fearless and nuanced piece.” Tatjana Damjanovic, The Spy In The Stalls

“A play that deserves to be seen.” Owen Davies, Plays To See

“Sharp, incisive, gripping.” Paul Ewing, Londonist

“Simmers and sparks of the apartheid era.” Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

“A powerful piece that reflects on how political fear and mistrust can taint individual lives.” Arifa Akbar, The Guardian

“The cast are so in tune with one another that they feel like people with long, shared histories.” Tatjana Damjanovic, The Spy In The Stalls

“The three circle each other, damaged by time, damaged by secrets and doubts, damaged by a dysfunctional political system that bleeds into the hearts and souls of those it crushes - one way or another.” Gary Naylor, WhatsOnStage

“Searingly rich characterisation.” Tim Hochstrasser, BritishTheatre.com

“Dawid Minnaar gives Piet a quiet dignity.” Stephen Bates, The Reviews Hub

“Janine Ulfane conveys the first breakdown of Gladys with a quiet, poetic and emotional intensity that is completely overwhelming.” Richard Braine, London Pub Theatres

“She paces the piece quite perfectly. She knows instinctively when to throw an emotional punch or a shaft of sunlight.” Richard Braine, London Pub Theatres

“Steve’s arrival, after the show’s interval, brings further energy and another strong performance, this time from David Rubin.” Edward Lukes, Once A Week Theatre

“David Rubin’s fiery performance as Steve intensifies questions that have been lurking since the first scene — about home, identity and belonging.” Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

“Rubin generates care for his character with remarkable speed.” Edward Lukes, Once A Week Theatre

“David Rubin’s Steve is bold and convincing.” Tatjana Damjanovic, The Spy In The Stalls

“Janet Suzman’s direction was spot on.” Terry Eastham, London Theatre 1

“Suzman directs with enormous sure-footedness.” Richard Braine, London Pub Theatres

“Janet Suzman’s superb production at The Finborough brings out all the difficult and delicate debates of this rarely revived piece.” Tatjana Damjanovic, The Spy In The Stalls

“Norman Coates’ set design makes ingenious use of the confined space.” Stephen Bates, The Reviews Hub

“The cast were helped by Norman Coates’ excellent and very authentic looking set.” Terry Eastham, London Theatre 1

“Norman Coates’s wonderfully evocative set.” Philip Fisher, British Theatre Guide

“The tiny stage works perfectly for Norman Coates' backyard set - we feel the glare of the sun, the stifling heat, the claustrophobic paradox of being trapped in a huge and beautiful country.” Gary Naylor, WhatsOnStage

“The Finborough’s small stage space actually suits the intensity of the play.” Tom Wicker, Time Out


Best Play of the Year –The New York Drama Critics' Circle Award

"Exile, madness, utter loneliness these are the only alternatives Mr. Fugard's characters have. What makes Aloes so moving is the playwright's insistence on the heroism and integrity of these harsh choices." The New York Times

"Immensely moving." New York Post
“Athol Fugard's profoundest drama yet…Powerful, eloquent, and moving.” Christian Science Monitor

“Hilarious and touching….Through it all shines such a fundamental love and optimism for humanity that the present situation of which he writes is made to seem all the more terrible.” Sheridan Morley, Punch

“There is nothing illusory here. This is not a play about protest so much as a genuine act of political protest taking place before one’s eyes.” James Fenton, The Sunday Times


Wednesday, 27 February – Saturday, 23 March 2019

Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm.
Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3.00pm.

Performance Length: Approximately two hours with one interval of fifteen minutes.

Prices until 10 March 2019

Tickets £18, £16 concessions

except Tuesday evenings £16 all seats, and Friday and Saturday evenings £18 all seats.
Previews (26 February - 3 March 2019) £14 all seats.

£10 tickets for Under 30's for performances from Tuesday to Sunday of the first week when booked online only.

£14 tickets for residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on Saturday, 2 March 2019 when booked online only.

Prices from 12 March 2019

Tickets £20, £18 concessions

except Tuesday evenings £18 all seats, and Friday and Saturday evenings £20 all seats. 

For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here



Book Tickets for A Lesson From Aloes

Wednesday, 27 February – Saturday, 23 March 2019

Please note that if a show is marked as Sold Out, there are no more tickets available. Please do NOT contact the theatre as we have no more tickets left for these shows. Please see our returns and exchanges policy for more information.

Directed by Janet Suzman

Designed by Norman Coates

Lighting by Mannie Manim

Sound by Rachael Murray

Presented by A Million Freds in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.

Supported by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Arts Grants Scheme

Dawid Minnaar

David Rubin

Janine Ulfane