SIZWE BANSI IS DEAD
by Athol Fugard, John Kani, Winston Ntshona.
Young Vic (The Maria) 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 15 March.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat 15, 22, 26 Feb, 8 March 2pm.
Audio-described 18 Feb.
Captioned 20 Feb.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.
then Tour by Eclipse Theatre 7 May-14 June 2014.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 February.
Sizwe Bansi alive as ever.
Audiences are segregated by skin colour as they enter the Maria. It could cause difficulties when people of different ethnicities arrive with each other. Not a likelihood when Sizwe Bansi is Dead arrived new-minted from South Africa by its creators, actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona and playwright Athol Fugard.
For along with their other jointly-created piece The Island (also revived last year by the Young Vic) the 1973 season at London’s Royal Court Theatre included Fugard’s Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act, which showed the danger facing love across apartheid’s racial divides.
Now the shock comes when the auditorium layout, a single rope dividing White from Non-White, is seen in a programme photo from a 1969 Bloemfontein sports arena. The rope curves at the front, making it seem the Whites who’re cordoned off. Either side sit the two groups, ignoring each other but hardly seeming hostile.
The Island has Sophocles’ Antigone as its structural backbone, off-setting its tragedy with the interplay of two Robben island prisoners; Sizwe Bansi Is Dead is built round two biographical stories. First from photographer Styles, his lively, barbed humour evident in Tonderai Munyevu’s fast-paced performance.
Styles’ memories of working in Ford’s South African car-plant allow the subversive humour of deliberately mistranslating for fellow-workers, while a visit from one of the Ford family sees White management reduced to the fawning subservience normally expected of their workforce.
Designer Hyemi Shen contrasts the garish brightness of Styles’ interior with the shack itself. And Munyevu’s bright manner contrasts the stolid, uncertain customer who comes for a photo to send to his wife. His story is told in the flash of a photographer’s bulb.
Pace and tone slow and darken, for the problems Styles dodges weigh on Sizwe Bansi, leading to his surrender of identity under a plan by his friend Bantu. Humour frames serious matter as Sibusiso Mamba’s Sizwe is coaxed in alternating anxiety and delight towards a momentous decision.
Sizwe reflects its creators’ serious yet playful optimism. They will surely be as delighted by these performers, and Matthew Xia’s production, as the rest of us.
Sizwe Bansi: Sibusiso Mamba.
Styles/Buntu: Tonderai Munyevu.
Director: Matthew Xia.
Designer: Hyemi Shin.
Lighting: Ciarán Cunningham.
Sound/Music: Richard Hammarton.
Movement: Angela Gasparetto.
Dialect coach: Zabarjad Salam.
Assistant director: Taio Lawson.
Associate sound: Alex Twiselton.
7-10 May 7.45pm Theatre Royal Plymouth (Drum) 01752 267 222 www.theatreroyal.com
15-17 May 8pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Hull Truck Theatre (Studio) 01482 323638 www.hulltruck.co.uk
20-24 May 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.15pm Crucible Studio Theatre Sheffield 0114 249 60000 www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk
27-31 May 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.30pm The Albany Deptford 020 8692 4446 www.thealbany.org.uk
5-7 June 8pm mac Birmingham 0121 446 3232 www.macarts.co.uk
10-14 June 7.45pm Mat Thu 1.30pm; Sat 2pm Liverpool Playhouse Studio 0151 709 47776 www.everymanplayhouse.com