The play sees Mr M, a teacher at a fictitious school called Zolile High, refereeing a debate whose subject is women not receiving the same education as men. In favour is Thami, a promising 18-year-old student and a favourite of Mr M. In opposition is Isabel, a White student visiting from another school.
Following the debate Mr M sees potential in the intellectual pairing of Isabel and Thami, and brings them together as a team for the state-wide English literature competition. As they prepare under Mr M’s tutelage, Isabel gains immense respect and admiration for Mr. M and forms a deep friendship with Thami. Outside the classroom, Mr M’s hopes for Thami are challenged by their generational divide and increasing political unrest under the South African government’s policy of apartheid. Thami quits the competition when he joins a student movement to boycott the school until Black people are given an education equivalent to that of White people.
The tradition-bound Mr. M regards Thami’s actions as destructive and co-operates with the police by informing against the boycotting students. Thami’s comrades retaliate; a mob approaches the school, intending to kill Mr M for his betrayal. Thami tries to help Mr M escape by offering to vouch for Mr M’s innocence, but Mr M refuses the protection of a lie and stands his ground. The mob kills him. Isabel struggles to comprehend why it seems that the Black community is tearing itself apart. She sees Thami one last time after Mr M’s murder. Thami plans to flee the country to avoid arrest so that he can continue fighting against apartheid.
The Playhouse Company is holding auditions for the three characters in the play:
- Mr M, a 57-year-old black South African teacher at Zolile High School who he believes that education is the most powerful tool in the struggle for freedom and equality.
- Thami Mbikwana, an 18-year-old Black student in Mr M’s class. He an intelligent student and a favourite of Mr M’s with dreams of higher education. He is a part of the student movement against apartheid.
- Isabel Dyson, an 18-year-old White student from the all-white Camdeboo Girls’ High School. She is an aspiring writer, brought to Zolile High School for a student debate.