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276 The Conventions ol Thealre,The Thesis, Sizwe Bansi Is Dead devised b1 Athol Fugard John Kani and Winston tshoma and. first producedin 1972 makes a strong statement about an injustice in societl uith the intent ol. effecting change Quite different lrom lbsen s plays the improvisational techniqucs cause the. action to advance quickly and impressionistically as the two actors portray varied characters The. play is a strong social statement in opposition to the repressive praftices and attitudes ol the South. African government In particular by focusing on the plight o a poor illiterate black man uho. needs a valid permit to work in Port Elizabeth the play opp6ses the restrictive laws requiring. Blacks to carry identity cards but in general the play goes fy r beyond suggesting a change in the. police procedures or laws governing employment It denouy ces racism and exploitation without. regard to place or situation and examines the 4gger quesy on qf what constituteda tyrrgan being. lamily to find employment in the city with the hope of eventually sending for them When. through ill luck he is arrested in a police search his dum book vital to any business or travel. arrangements is stamped in a way which makes him unable to live or work in the city In the. exchange ol his identity card for that ol a dead man Sizwe Bansi loses his name To the world. at large he takes on the identity of Robert Zuwelzima the dead man When he protests to his. knowledgeable mentor Buntu that he has lost his name and that of his family Buntu points out. that so long as a policeman or a white child can call any black man by any name including John. or Boy there can be no pride or dignity in a name which merely allows degradation at the. whim of the powerful Sizwe is better off with the anonymity of the new name and identity. number He is dead to the bureaucracy which keeps files on the blacks But he was already dead. in the sense of human dignity before he agreed to make the change Buntu explains. Characterization and Set, In this play there was only t wo actors but many characters The inarticulate Sizwe or. Zuwelzima seems comical as he poses for the photographer in Styles studio But as Styles and. the other characters he portrays he denounces repression and as the audience sees flashbacks of. the events leading up to the opening scene the mood changes The man posing for the picture is. not just a country bumpkin foolishly smiling as he crosses his legs and holds a pipe instead he. becomes a man to be treated seriously and to be remembered. Because of the improvisational technique the sparsely furnished stage becomes any setting. required by the dialogue government office sidewalk church clothing store the home of a proud. man on Sunday the payroll office of Feltex and the small town of Sizwe s origin on the day a. letter is delivered Changes in costume are not necessary Through flashback and through the. convention of Sizwe s voice in the letter addressed to his wife as black and white still photographs. replace color film the story is told,Sizwe Bansi ls Dead. How Sizwe Bansi and Mr Buntu Complement Each Other. Sizwe Bansi Is Dead is intense and painful Through one of the central characters Mr. Buntu there is revealed the hopeless and bitter reality of trying to exist in a country that refuses. to recognize his humanity and dignity because he is black Through the other main character. Sizwe Bansi a glimmer of hope is shown It is not that everything ends up rosy and wonderful. flor Sizwe and Mr Buntu at the close of the play on the contrary it is evident that the system. which oppresses both men is still in effect The hope seems to spring instead from a faith in the. individual, Although regarded as a mere number and treated either as a child or a criminal by the. society he lives in Sizwe Bansi still holds on to a deeply rooted basic pride He is shown as a. loving husband and father He is also capable of finer human feeling as demonstrated by his. informing the dead Robert Zuwelinzima s family of his death despite the risk to Sizwe. This goodness could be taken as simple stupidity if it were not lor the fact that he is presented. in the play respectfully even lovingly He is portrayed as a simple man uncontaminated by. cynicism This seems to point out that whereas people are often oppressed and imprisoned by. complex and difficult to understand systems and societies they are generally simple folk like. Sizwe They do not comprehend the involved politics and psychology that robs them of security. and dreams If they are not permitted a future to plan for then they live from day to day. Contrasted with this simplicity is Mr Buntu who understands very well where his oppression. originates He is clever and witty in his bitterness and has a strong survival instinct Sizwe has. a thicker skull Mr Buntu has a thicker skin Mr Buntu s hide was acquired through necessity. He tells Sizwe at one point in the play lf I could keep my pride support his wife and children. I would keep my name To hell with your bloody name Take my pride and give me bread for my. Mr Buntu s acute awareness set against Sizwe s painful bewilderment and confusion becomes. more than a mere cataloging of the daily indignities to which a black man is subjected It is a cry. for the restoration of his pride It seems to be a plea for Sizwe s sake Mr Buntu does not somehow. appear to be wholly human as Sizwe does He is like a defense lawyer arguing a case lor Sizwe. the common man He intervenes he protects he advises he explains He explains life and its. realities to Sizwe and in so doing explains Sizwe to us. We can see the effects of injustice in Sizwe s perplexed expression and his simple hurt. question Am I not a man, Mr Buntu then gathers up the leelings of outrage which Sizwe s threatened self respect.
has evoked and directs them against the source of the injustice the white segregationist estab. The message that it is wrong to strip a person ol his or her self esteem and human rights. transcends the specific dilemma presented in the play which is the plight of the South African. Blacks The need for self respect the striving for happiness are not peculiar to Sizwe and Mr. Buntu They are common to all ol humankind just as the capability to be inhuman and cruel in. order to maintain a social system is common to all of us It is not an easy problem to overcome. and the play suggests no solutions Its purpose is to make us realize how wrong this reality is. 2ta The Conventions of Theatre,CommentarY, Clive Barnes of the New York Times describes the impact of Sizwe Bansi Is Dead in this. critical review of the Royal Court s production He compares movement in the play to a train. gathering speed Like a train the play moves slowly at first bogged down by the weight ol its. cargo yet as it converts its burden to the energy of a burning message a cumbersome vehicle. becomes a thunderbolt of pain,New York lizes November 14 1974. Sizwe Blnsi Is A Message from Africa, Theatrical power is a curious thing It can start small like a murmur in a chimney and then. build up to a hurricane It can slide into you as stealthily as a knife It can make you wonder. make you think The South African play Sizwe Bansi Is Dead starts almost slower than slow. A black South African photographer from Port Elizabeth wandered onto the stage at Edison. Theater last night and started chatting to the audience talking nonchalantly about Ford Kissinger. Nixon and the like, It was beautifully acted mildly amusing but I must admit that I thought this improvisatory. and I now believe deliberately low key introduction boded a strange evening I realized that this. play when at London s Royal Court Theater had been triumphantly received by audiences and. critics alike but there was a moment there when I thought that this was just a tribute to liberal. Britain s guilt over South Africa But slowly it happened like a train gathering speed The play. the theme the performances gradually took over and the sheer dramatic force of the piece. bounced around the theater like angry thunderbolts of pain From this slow kidding beginning. there comes a climax that hits and hurts You will not forget Sizwe Bansi easily. The play comes from South Africa was performed in South Africa and apparently following. its fantastic international success official South Africa by which of course I mean white South. Africa is rather proud of it Which is fantastic for this is a terrible and moving indictment. against the South African government and the horrifying way it treats its black majority Inter. estingly a government that can let a play like this be shown and even exported doesn t know its. behind from its elbow or perhaps doesn t even have the miserable courage of its own evil convic. The play like The Island which joins Sizwe Bansi in repertory next week has been. devised by the white South African actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona Mr Fugard has. directed the play and presumably acted as some kind of umpire to its creation. Styles the jokingly ironic photographer gets a customer and takes his picture which is to. be sent to the man s wife They get into conversation and the man tells him that he is staying. with Buntu a textile worker And so the story of Sizwe Bansi and his death is told in flashback. The world and its laws leave us nothing but ourselves This is the awful message of the. play Buntu and Sizwe are what South Africans call Buntus As recently as 1969 the South. African Deputy Minister of Justice referred to these 15 million black South Africans as appen. 1974 by The New York Times Company Reprinted by permission. Sizwe Bansi ls Dead 279, dages They are forced to carry a passbook which has stamps on it saying where these appen.
dages can or cannot work, Sizwe s passbook is wrong Coming to Port Elizabeth for work he will have to go back to the. country or face arrest Already he is overdue but without getting a job in the city he has no way. of supporting his wife and four children Sadly he and Buntu go to a bar and get drunk Comin. home they find the dead body of a stabbed man Buntu removes the dead man s passbook All. they have to do is change around the photographs and Sizwe Bansi is dead and Sizwe himself. under a new identity is free to live and work After all to South African officials a black man is. not a man but a boy not a creature but a worker, A stirring moral message is one thing a good play is another And in its strange way Sizwe. Bansi Is Dead is an astonishingly good play From its satirically sly opening with its corrosive. remarks on the Ford factory in Port Elizabeth to its slashing climax where echoing Shylock. Buntu and Sizwe insist on their human dignity the play has a style manner and grace of its own. You can hardly talk about the play without talking about the two actors and its staging. because it is all of one piece John Kani sleek and flashing is dynamite as both the cynical Styles. and the embittered Buntu while Winston Ntshona has just the right puzzled dignity and despair. as Sizwe Mr Fugard s staging is inseparable from them and the play. There is a great deal of fun here as well as tragedy It is human nature to fight disaster with. laughter and this play is a joyous hymn to human nature. Clive Barnes,Objectives, After studying Sizwe Bansi Is Dead you the student should be able to. l recognize that theatre art is a live immediate form of communication directly. influenced by the response of the audience, 2 identify the significance of dramatic conventions used as expressive tools by the. playwright actor and director in Sizwe Bansi Is Dead. 3 appreciate the significant contributions of black theatre not only to theatre art but. also for the facilitation of social change,Program Notes.
Sizwe Bansi Is Deqd, Filmed as it was staged at the Royal Court in l974 the play is a two man tour deforce on. repressive laws in the Republic of South Africa Athol Fugard s play is humorous ironic and. angry as it explores the plight of a black man whose identification card prevenrs him from living. or working at Port Elizabeth The television drama begins after the first long monologue and. continues to the play s end, Innovative theatrical conventions include one actor s playing several parts pantomime. changes from color to black and white and from moving pictures to still photography There is. commentary by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee reading lrom the works of black American writers. The original television performance recorded in January 1974 and first broadcast in March. 1974 is cut with the deletion of the section about Ciskeian independence. 2AO The Conventions of Th atre, A Listing of BBC Actors and Production Coordinators. SIZWE BANSI IS DEAD,Athol Fugard John Kani and Winston Ntshona. SIZWE BANSI WINSTON NTSHONA,STYLES AND BUNTU JOHN KANI.
PRODUCTION,SETDESIGN MICHAELEDWARDS,MAKE UP SUPERVISOR MAGGIE WEBB. DIRECTOR JOHN DAVIES,STAGE DIRECTOR ATHOL FUGARD,Sizwe Bansi ls 281. It is important to recall that all the productions we have seen so far have been interpretations. of playscripts Here the playscript is in fact an interpretation of a stageplay performance that is. the performance came before the script since the actors and Fugard devised the play through. improvisation It therefore follows that this production is one version ol this continuously chang. ing play The viewer must allow a lew minutes for adjustment to. Created Date 11 5 2013 12 08 00 PM

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