Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at Young Vic is a fine revival of apartheid classic

18 Feb

Metro

Tonderai Munyevu as Styles in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at Young Vic (Picture: Richard Hubert Smith) Tonderai Munyevu as Styles in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at Young Vic (Picture: Richard Hubert Smith)

Theatre review: Sizwe Banzi Is Dead at Young Vic

What is your name worth to you? In this classic apartheid-era play from South Africa, a black man has to decide whether to switch identities with a dead man in order to evade the white authorities’ pass laws and find a job.

The script was devised in 1972 by Athol Fugard and its original performers, John Kani and Winston Ntshona.

Unsurprisingly, given this genesis, it’s a real actor’s piece, requiring its two-man cast to effect pin-sharp shifts in tone, moving between a kind of vaudeville-inflected absurdism and tense naturalistic drama.

The action begins in the studio of a Port Elizabeth photographer named Styles, who delivers a humorous monologue about his working life before being interrupted by the arrival of a customer.

The latter gives his…

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