36 pages 1 hour read

Athol Fugard

The Road to Mecca

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1985

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Act I

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Act I Summary

The Road to Mecca takes place in the Karoo village of New Bethesda in South Africa in the autumn of 1974, in a room that the stage directions describe as extraordinary “by virtue of the attempt to use as much light and color as is humanly possible” (1). Outside the room, the audience learns, is Miss Helen’s yard filled with sculptures she created. It is late afternoon and Miss Helen, a “frail, birdlike woman in her late sixties” whose appearance offers a “suggestion of personal neglect” (1), is fussing around the room, laying out towels and soap and carrying an overnight bag that’s been left on the floor. 

Elsa, a “strong young woman in her late twenties” (2), enters and the two begin discussing Elsa’s recent unexpected arrival for an overnight stay. Helen fusses over Elsa until Elsa gets annoyed, saying, “For God’s sake, Helen! Just leave me alone for a few minutes!” (3). They quickly apologize and start over, with Elsa miming driving up in her car again so they can play their usual “arrival game” (5). Elsa tells Helen, “You have the rare distinction of being the only person who can make me make a fool of myself…and enjoy it.