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Sizwe Banzi is Dead - Young Vic and on tour

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

FOLLOWING its revival run at the Young Vic (February 6 to March 8, 2014) and celebrating the 40th anniversary of its UK premiere, the Tony Award nominated Anti-Apartheid play, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, will embark on a nationwide tour (May 7 to June 14, 2014).

The play, devised by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, and presented by Eclipse Theatre Company and the Young Vic, exposes the struggle for freedom and identity in apartheid-era South Africa, unravelling the brutal absurdities of everyday life under oppression.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead is set in 1972 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where Sizwe Banzi’s passbook gives him just three days to find work. No work and he’ll be deported. That was four days ago. When Sizwe stumbles across a dead body with a passbook, he asks himself – does his identity card really define who he is? Could he give up his family and his name in order to survive?

Sizwe Banzi is Dead is directed by the Young Vic’s Genesis Future Directors Award-winner Matthew Xia and performed by Sibusiso Mambo and Tonderai Munyevu.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead received its UK premiere in 1973 at London’s Royal Court Theatre, directed by Athol Fugard and starring John Kani and Winston Ntshona, where it was performed in repertory with The Island and received critical acclaim both in the West End and on Broadway.

Dawn Walton, Artistic Director of Eclipse Theatre Company, said: “It shocks me that a play developed at the height of apartheid in South Africa over 40 years ago still holds so many truths about ‘identity’ for a contemporary UK audience. We are proud to be sharing this incisive production with eclipse theatre audiences across the UK.”

Matthew Xia, director of Sizwe Bansi is Dead, said: “Athol Fugard and his collaborators have created a brutally honest portrayal of the everyday struggle faced by millions of South Africans under the apartheid regime. Despite the collapse of apartheid in the early 90’s the wider themes of immigration, identity and survival resonate all too loudly today.”

Eclipse Theatre Company is the only black led company presenting annual mid-scale tours regionally. Since its inception, the Company has toured Moon on a Rainbow Shawl (2003) by Errol John, Oladipo Agboluaje’s adaptation of Mother Courage and Her Children (2004), Little Sweet Thing (2005) by Roy Williams, Mustapha Matura’s adaptation of Three Sisters (2006), Angel House (2008) by Roy Williams, The Hounding of David Oluwale (2009) by Kester Aspden (also adapted by Oladipo Agboluaje) and SUS (2010) by Barrie Keeffe (co-production with Young Vic Theatre).

And One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show received its UK premiere in a co-production between Eclipse Theatre Company and Sheffield Theatres in October 2011 and was later staged at the Tricycle Theatre to critical acclaim in 2013.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead is designed by Hyemi Shin, with lighting by Ciaran Cunningham and sound by Richard Hammarton.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead is suitable for ages 12+.

Tickets: £19.50, previews £10 (February 6 – 12) – available from the box office on 020 7922 2922 or online at www.youngvic.org/.

Times: Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm, Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.45pm (except February 12).

Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (no interval).

The tour will visit Plymouth, Hull, Sheffield, Deptford, Birmingham and Liverpool.