“A joyous hymn to human nature” - New York Times
“The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.” - Stella Adler
The theatre captivates what is real about life as we know it, see it and live it; and last week students from the ICL class had a chance to attend a play at the Baxter Theatre called, Sizwe Banzi is Dead. Looking at that title and having Stella Adler’s words echo in the background, you can only imagine the reality of the performance. The award-winning theatre classic is about the universal struggle for human dignity. The story centres on a black man in apartheid-era South Africa who tries to overcome oppressive work regulations to support his family. How many of you can relate with that, either personally or vicariously, not specifically within the South African context but the broader universal picture? “Sizwe Banzi is Dead became a statement that articulated the anger of black people against these laws,” says Kani. “It’s about the universal struggle of identity, of the dignity of the human being, and respect for humanity.”
Kani and Ntshona performed the play in South Africa, England and on Broadway, where they jointly won the coveted Tony Awards for Best Actor. In 1976 they were arrested by the Apartheid Secret Police and were detained in solitary confinement for 23 days. They were only released because of massive demonstrations by the arts fraternity all over the world. After the magnificent performance by the two South African actors, Atandwa Kani and Mncedisi Baldwin Shabangu, the students were able to chat and engage with them in a Q&A session held in the theatre after the performace. The play was first produced in the early ‘70s by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona. Forty years since John Kani and Winston Ntshona won the Best Actor Tony Award for their performances in the play and while John Kani returns as director, his son assumes the role which made him famous. The value of the experience can't be underestimated because it challenged students to engage outside their immediate social situation and as Stella Adler so aptly puts it:
"You have to get beyond your own precious inner experiences" - Stella Adler.