With Mr. Kani and Mr. Ntshona reprising their original roles in the revival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, this bleak comic story of a man who can keep himself afloat only by putting himself six feet under remains a potent parable of the perverse cruelties of life under the Afrikaner regime. Fugard, when the plays were presented in repertory on Broadway in and
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The play opens in the photography studio of a man named Styles. After reading a newspaper article on an automobile plant, Styles tells a humorous story to the audience about an incident that occurred when he worked at the Ford Motor Company. Styles continues to read the paper and talks about his photography studio. His musings are interrupted when a customer, Sizwe Banzi, arrives. He asks to have his picture taken, but when Styles asks him for his deposit and name, Sizwe hesitates, then says his name is Robert Zwelinzima.
Styles asks Sizwe what he will do with the photo, and Sizwe tells him he will send it to his wife. When the picture is taken, the moment is frozen into what the photograph will look like. It comes to life and Sizwe dictates the letter to his wife that will accompany the photo. In the letter, Sizwe tells his wife that Sizwe Banzi is dead. His employment search was unsuccessful; as a result, he was told by the authorities that he must leave in three days. The play returns to the present time.
Sizwe rejects the idea as too dangerous. The focus switches back to Sizwe as he continues to compose the letter to his wife.
Buntu decides that he needs to get home to go to work tomorrow. He goes into an alley to relieve himself and finds a dead man there. Sizwe wants to report the body to the police. They take the book. Sizwe is unsure about the plan; in particular, he worries about his wife and children. Buntu contends that they can remarry. After much discussion, Sizwe agrees to the switch. Sizwe finishes dictating the letter to his wife. At that time it was required that every black and colored citizen over the age of sixteen carried [sic] an identity book that restricted employment and travel within the country.
In court, Fugard saw the repercussions of this law: blacks were sent to jail at an alarming rate. Critics and scholars have also observed that Sizwe Bansi Is Dead contains elements of absurdism , especially its sparse setting and surreal subject matter. There, it won The London Theatre Critics award. After six previews, the Broadway production, presented in repertory with The Island , opened on 13 November at the Edison Theatre , where it ran for performances.
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Poster for the Royal National Theatre production.
Sizwe Banzi Is Dead – review
The play provides a view into the social and political racism experienced by black South Africans in the s, although the type of suppression and persecution depicted in the play was present well before the s and would continue into the future. Styles pursues his talent with a camera in order to preserve the faces and identities of his people, who would otherwise be forgotten by the rest of the world. The play also tells the story of Sizwe Bansi, a man condemned by his government to a life of poverty. This government edict will, in all probability, result in the starvation of Sizwe and his family. Sizwe is taken in by a man named Buntu after he is discovered in a government raid. He knows Sizwe has no chance of finding a job or remaining in Port Elizabeth with the stamps in his book.
In South Africa, This Dead Man Does Tell Tales
Sizwe Bansi Is Dead was written in collaboration with two African actors, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, both of whom appeared in the original production. The play made its British debut a year or so later and won The London Theatre Critics award for the best play of At that time it was required that every black and colored citizen over the age of sixteen carried an identity book that restricted employment and travel within in the country. In court, Fugard saw the repercussions of this law: blacks were sent to jail at an alarming rate. Critics and scholars have also observed that Sizwe Bansi Is Dead contains elements of absurdism, especially its sparse setting and surreal subject matter. When Fugard was three years old his family moved to the diverse city of Port Elizabeth. Growing up, Fugard was keenly aware of the racial divisions in the city and their economic and social consequences.
Sizwe Banzi Is Dead Summary & Study Guide