Two award-winning young directors will present 40th anniversary productions of Athol Fugard’s classic anti-apartheid plays, Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and The Island, at the Young Vic later this year.
Genesis Future Directors Award winner Matthew Xia will direct Fugard’s brutal Tony Award-winning Sizwe Banzi Is Dead from 18 to 28 September, while JMK Award winner Alex Brown will tackle the Robben Island-set The Island for a strictly limited three week run from 7 to 30 November.
The pair of trailblazing plays were first seen in the UK in 1973 at the Royal Court theatre, a year after their premiere in Cape Town, gaining wide recognition for their pivotal role in the global anti-apartheid movement and subsequently playing critically acclaimed runs in the West End and on Broadway.
The first of the plays to run at the Young Vic, Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, last seen in London in the National Theatre’s 2007 production, is set in 1972 and exposes the struggle for freedom and identity in apartheid-era South Africa. A look at the absurdities of everyday life under oppression, the drama tells the story of one man who discovers he must find work in three days or face deportation. When he stumbles across a dead body with an all-important passbook, he must decide whether his identity card really defines him and what he is prepared to give up to survive.
The Island will then transport audiences to the infamous Robben Island, where inmates John and Winston have been imprisoned for their opposition to apartheid. Inspired by true stories from the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years, the pair rehearse a performance of Antigone, sharing their hopes and dreams in the face of brutal oppression. But when John’s sentence is reduced, Winston must find a way to survive.
Both directors were awarded their respective accolades in order to nurture the emerging artists and enable them to develop their craft. Xia returns to the Young Vic after assisting David Lan on last year’s Blackta and also boasts credits including Wild Child at the Royal Court and numerous credits at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, while Brown will make his Young Vic debut with The Island after being awarded £25,000 towards staging the production earlier this year, as part of his JMK Award win.