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Sizwe Banzi Is Dead

Published 14 February 2014

What’s it all about?

Let’s get one thing straight, Sizwe Banze isn’t dead. He’s not even close to dead. He’s strolling around Port Elizabeth under the guise of another man whose lifeless body and passbook were discovered by Sizwe and his friend Bunto in a back street. Why? Because he feared that the stamp on his own documents would send him back to King William’s where he couldn’t provide for his family.

Rest assured, knowing he’s alive doesn’t spoil the experience for future audiences. The power of this tale resides not in how Sizwe’s ‘death’ comes about but the need for it to occur in the first place.

Who’s in it?

Sibusiso Mamba gives a passionate performance as the title character, a chap that remains cheerful despite his burdensome secret. Tonderai Munyevu is tasked with portraying two of the play’s characters – photographer Styles and man with a plan Buntu – and does so with heaps of energy and gusto. Both wearing smiles worthy of Cheshire cats at dinner time, the animated duo command the sparsely furnished stage for the duration of this compelling and funny two-hander.

What should I look out for?

Falling bananas and an onstage costume change that may seem bizarre at the time, but turns out to be one of the most effective elements of this simply staged production.

Who was in the press night crowd?

While no big names were spotted in the Young Vic’s Maria Studio, a lot of people stunned and slightly baffled at being separated from their friends and guests before the show had even started were definitely in attendance.

In a nutshell?

A subtle yet hard-hitting portrayal of the injustice of apartheid in 1970s South Africa.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@SurfyMDO Sizwe Banzi is Dead at Young Vic. Powerful expression of what identity means, wrapped in an awful struggle for life and fairness.

@Dabij Sizwe Banzi is Dead | Young Vic – Saw this play yesterday. A must see for a gritty, intense but humour filled play!

Will I like it?

It may be Valentine’s Day but this is not one for date night, unless you want to risk sitting next to a total stranger on your romantic evening at the theatre. But it is a returning production, which means that enough people liked it first time around for the Young Vic to bring it back. I for one am glad they did.


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