Playland is set on New Year’s Eve outside a Karoo town where a small, shabby traveling amusement park is encamped in the red clay dust. Martinus Zoeloe, the black night watchman, is repainting a bumper car when Gideon le Rous wanders in. He is white, a former army noncom whose car has stalled outside the park. The park’s bright lights will not go up till after dark. The bumper car is being refurbished; Gideon needs Martinus’ help to get his car started. It’s the eve of the century’s final decade: the millennium approaches.