King Kong - Our Knot of Time and Music

A personal memoir of South Africa’s legendary musical

Pat Williams

Published: 6 July 2017
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 336 pages
ISBN: 9781846276538


On 2 February 1959, a musical about the life and times of heavyweight boxing star Ezekiel Dhlamini (known as 'King Kong') opened in Johannesburg to a packed audience that included Nelson Mandela. King Kong was not just South Africa's first ever musical, but one that grew out of a collaboration between black people and white, and showcased an all-black cast. It was an instant hit, bursting through the barriers of apartheid and eventually playing to 200,000 South Africans of every colour before transferring to London's West End.

Pat Williams, the show's lyricist, was at the time an apolitical young woman trying to free herself from the controls and prejudices of the genteel white society in which she lived. Here she recounts her experience of growing up in a divided South Africa, her involvement in the musical, and its lasting impact both on herself and on the show's cast, many of whom went on to find international fame, like South African jazz legends Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. Her memoir takes the story up to the present day. It is both a vivid evocation of a troubled time and place as well as a celebration of a joyous production, in which a group of young people came together in South Africa's dark times - to create a show which still lives on today.

About the author

Image of Pat Williams

Pat Williams is an award-winning writer, journalist, script-writer and broadcaster who began her working life at sixteen. In latter years she has also been working as a psychotherapist. She loves stories, and for a decade was Director of the College of Storytellers, an organisation which helped kickstart the British storytelling revival. She also gives popular workshops and seminars on metaphor and therapeutic storytelling in Britain and elsewhere. Pat came to London shortly before King Kong opened in the West End, and has lived and worked there ever since. In recent years she has divided her time between London and the Isle of Arran. More about the author


‘An extraordinary memoir of the first ever South African musical, which has since acquired mythical proportions. Essential reading for anyone who loves our country - and, of course, its music’ Athol Fugard



‘Beautifully written, honest, and insightful, this portrait of a bygone age feels painfully fresh... as does the constantly touching personal (and universal) tale. A triumph’ William Nicholson

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