Sizwe Banzi is Dead
By Athol Fugard
Theatre des Bouffes du Nord (France)
Rebecca Crown, Israel Festival
The inimitable Peter Brook has revived renowned South African dramatist Athol Fugard's 1972 classic, a denunciation of apartheid, exposing the tribulations of black Africans under the evils of segregation and white domination.
Played today, Sizwe Banzi is Dead issues a strong socio-political message relating to oppressive regimes in many other parts of the world.
A rambling, strangely structured piece originating from actors' improvisations, the piece conjures up deep moral and human quandaries alongside its portrayal of political injustice. Malis Habib Dembele opens with a long monologue in which he plays multiple roles and displays a dazzling range of emotions with electrifying movement, unfailing sincerity and an elegant ease.
He is partnered by Pitcho Womba Konga, a giant, bearded Congolese, who carries the tragic tale of the dispossessed, doomed villager with a deep and touching passion. Their expressive portrayal, delivered in a sonorous French, is as lustrous as it is authentic.