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2007 Media Release - Sizwe Banzi Is Dead

Issued Thursday, 10 May 2007


“The legendary theatre-maker Peter Brook brings a fresh perspective to a modern classic. Timelessly theatrical; timelessly affecting.” The Times, London

“The play remains imperative for those who have not seen it.” The Independent, UK

Text by Athol Fugard, John Kani & Winston Ntshona with French adaptation by Marie Helen Estienne. Performed in French with English subtitles.

Sydney Opera House proudly presents Peter Brook’s internationally acclaimed production of Sizwe Banzi is Dead in the Playhouse from 26 Nov – 16 Dec.

Devised by one of the world’s greatest contemporary playwrights, South African Athol Fugard,  Sizwe Banzi Is Dead is a memorable play that attacked the injustice of apartheid.

Directed by the legendary Peter Brook, one of the great figures of contemporary theatre, who is renowned for his pared back productions that truly engage with the ‘real.’ Focusing on themes of identity, humanity, truth and survival,  this Apartheid-era classic continues to resonate today.

Peter Brook’s moving, funny and deeply engaging production stars Habib Dembélé, writer and political activist who stood as a presidential candidate for the Republic of Mali and Pitcho Womba Konga, a celebrated rapper, hip-hop artist and producer from the Congo.

“They give the work a renewed ferocity & edge”. The Times, London

Sizwe Banzi is Dead is the second of three ‘Township Plays’ created by Athol Fugard with actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona. These plays are based on the everyday life of the urban black community in South Africa during Apartheid.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead began its life in the townships before touring the world to massive critical and popular acclaim. Created at a time when every black South African over the age of 16 was required to carry an identity book, Sizwe Banzi is Dead was first performed in 1972, four years before the Sharpeville massacre, 8 years after Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

Sizwe Banzi has a desperate need to provide for his family, but his passbook contains the wrong information and so prevents him from finding work. With his new friend, Buntu, he comes across a corpse lying by the side of the road, and the prospect of stealing the dead man’s papers seems to offer the only escape route.

Now a classic of South African theatre, there is a universality to Sizwe Banzi is Dead that transcends its age. Brook finds that the play perfectly evinces the problems faced by thousands in the world today seeking free movement in this global age. It also serves as a reminder to the outside world of how Africa and its people are still being treated.

The play is, for Brook "about a fundamental lack of respect for the African", which exists to this day. Today its impact is even stronger - history, life itself, has proved it to be true.

Peter Brook's reputation and influence on modern theatre is all-pervasive, with roles including Artistic Director with the Royal Shakespeare Company, director of films, including Lord of the Flies and Marat/Sade, and founder of the International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris. It’s nearly twenty years since Brook’s Mahabharata was performed in Perth and Adelaide and now Sizwe Banzi is Dead provides a rare opportunity for Sydney audiences to see the work of this visionary artist.

Director: Peter Brook
Text: Athol Fugard, John Kani & Winston Ntshona
French adaptation: Marie-Hélène Estienne
Starring: Habib Dembélé & Pitcho Womba Konga
Lighting design: Philippe Vialatte
Set design: Abdou Ouologuem
Production: Marko Rankov
Performed in French with English subtitles / By arrangement with Arts Projects Australia Events.

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