when John Kani started his acting career in the 1960s. The only stage he found was an empty snake hole in a closed South African museum. His latest work, Kunene and the King, began at the Royal Shakespeare Company and was performed in the West End of London. The South African tour, which was interrupted by the pandemic theater closure, is now resuming.

“In 2018, I intended to celebrate the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s democracy the following year, from the dawn of a new, non-racial, sexist-free rainbow country,” Kani told AFP. rice field. The play he wrote takes care of an older white actor who died of liver cancer, but is desperate to survive long enough to accept the role of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” I’m Lunga Kunene, a black male nurse. “I wanted to make something that one couldn’t live without,” Kani said.

He definitely built a theater about the theater, with Shakespeare running through the veins. “I was suddenly fascinated by the history of two men from the other side of a country who had a different view of South Africa, but the only thing that connects them is their love for Shakespeare,” he said. Said. “And that’s how King Leah was woven into the story.”

The two characters set the line from Shakespeare’s tragedy and emphasized King Lear’s commitment to death. And they recite the lines of “Julius Caesar” from both the original play and the translation into Xhosa, the native language of the crab, who remembers playing in high school in 1959.

On the current tour, Crab will co-star with prolific South African actor Michael Richards. Michael Richards said the story shows how South Africa is changing with the evolution of King Leah. “Lear learns humanity in the play, and in this play my character learns humanity in a way that builds a relationship with South Africa,” Richard said.

South African stage actor and voice actor Michael Richards poses for a portrait behind the scenes at the Johannesburg Theater in Johannesburg.

Theater about theater

The tragedy of the crab play unexpectedly began to appear in real life. His co-stars in British production were South African-born actor Anthony Shah and knight Shakespeare performer. Shah died of liver cancer in December. Liver cancer is the same illness that kills his character in a crab play. And his younger brother also died of liver cancer in 2019 because the play was in shape.

Sadly, the play is so entertaining that he best knows the crab by playing Black Panther’s father in a Marvel movie and aloud Sherman Mandrill’s Rafiki in the 2019 remake of The Lion King. Probably a revelation for young fans. In South Africa, crabs are legendary figures in protest theaters. His play in the Snake Pit in the 1960s brought him to a collaboration with Asolf Guard. Asolf Guard is widely regarded as one of the greatest playwrights in the country.

They went against the apartheid era of separatism by meeting in secret and rehearsing in the classroom and garage under the constant harassment of feared police. They adopted the name Serpent Players and played classics like “Antigone” in the serpentine holes of the unloved museum.

“It was a museum, an entertainment venue with a museum,” Kani said. “On the other side, you can see dolphins. When Port Elizabeth is really depressed financially, everyone will say, someone put out a dolphin before you lock the place.”

By the early 1970s, crabs, fugards, and fellow performers Winston Nuschna had written new plays that exposed the reality of the harsh life under apartheid. Kani and Ntshona won the Tony Awards in 1975 for their “Sizwe Banzi is Dead” performance in New York. All three also wrote an ingenious play, “Island,” about the situation in a prison on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other leading activists were imprisoned.

Today, South African theaters are struggling, and under COVID regulations, spectators are still limited to 50 percent occupancy. After the pandemic brought many illnesses and deaths to the world, Crab said the play was now received a little differently. Now, he said, bringing about a post-COVID play, people “understand the process” of illness and death. “Africans have great respect for death and life, and they understand the process and journey, but see it as a continuation of life.” – AFP

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