Review: Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Banzi Is Dead

The South African play about a passbook swap explores freedom, identity and what it means to be a man.

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Make no mistake. With this play, yet again the Young Vic has shown itself to be by far and away the most progressive theater in the U.K. right now. Led by its artistic director, David Lan—himself South African—in terms of both programming and the diversity of its audiences, it is currently untouchable and has become one of the brightest stars in the British cultural firmament.

As such, even in these post-apartheid, post-Madiba times, Sizwe Banzi Is Dead is still a searingly, painfully relevant play and one that fully deserves this outstanding revival. It is a timeless classic and one of the most moving and meaningful assertions of what it means to be a human being I have ever seen onstage. It speaks with supreme clarity and great insight of the recalcitrance and defiance inside all of us. It is, in short, a peerlessly eloquent testament to the nobility of the human spirit—and one that I think should be compulsive viewing for all American schoolchildren and adults alike.

Sizwe Banzi Is Dead is currently showing at the Young Vic theater in London until March 15.

Lindsay Johns is a London-based writer and broadcaster. He currently blogs on current affairs and culture for the Daily Mail online.

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