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John Kani back on home soil for play, Kunene and the King

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Legendary South African actor and playwright, John Kani, will be on home soil soon for the run of his play, Kunene and the King, to be hosted on the main stage at the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex later this month.
Legendary South African actor and playwright, John Kani, will be on home soil soon for the run of his play, Kunene and the King, to be hosted on the main stage at the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex later this month.

Legendary South African actor and playwright, John Kani, will be on home soil soon for the run of his play, Kunene and the King, to be hosted on the main stage at the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex later this month.

The play, written by Kani, who hails from New Brighton in Nelson Mandela Bay, is about the confrontation between two men that represent polarised aspects of the South African experience. Marking 25 years since the country’s ?rst post-apartheid democratic elections, the play becomes an exploration of race, class, politics, theatre, and the potentially unifying power of Shakespeare.

According to Michael Billington, Michael Richard plays Jack Morris, a cantankerous old actor who hopes to overcome severe liver cancer to get to Cape Town to play King Lear. Kani himself is Lunga Kunene, a retired carer assigned by an agency to tend this querulous thespian. While claiming to be apolitical, Morris embodies the reflex attitudes of white supremacy and consistently, when talking to Kunene, refers to “you people.”

“Although refusing to be a spokesman, Kunene recounts how his own dreams of being a doctor were thwarted, not so much by his Soweto upbringing as by the vengefulness of “comrades” towards his storekeeper father for seeking to transcend the divisions of the apartheid era.” 

Directly from the West End at the Ambassador Theatre in London, the in association with Joburg Theatre and John Kani, proudly present Kunene and the King as directed by Janice Honeyman. Kunene and the King has made its return to South African theatres with sold out shows in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The tour is culminating at the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex from July 7 to July 10, 2022.

After a successful run in Stratford–upon-Avon in 2019, Kunene and the King premiered to a sold-out house at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre before continuing to sell out houses at their stint at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. The show described as “rich, raw and shattering” (The Times), certainly impressed critics and audiences alike.

Kunene and the King is set 25 years after the country’s ?rst post-apartheid democratic elections and tackles head-on the personal implications of the supposed new equality.  It is also listed among the top 10 best plays produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 60 years.

“Kunene and the King has been a special gift to me as a writer. I wrote the play to deal with some questions that I had within myself and when I ?nished writing the play, I sent it to a friend of mine, Sir Anthony Sher at the Royal Shakespeare Company, because I had him in mind to play this wonderful character, Jack Morris.

“We opened the play at Stratford in April 2019. What a joy! What a celebration! We transferred to the Fugard Theatre for a few performances, and then we took the West End by storm. It gives me great pleasure to bring my play back to South Africa, and my home town, Gqeberha, completing a journey that I have been going on for a long time. Thank you to the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex," Kani said. 

Limited tickets are available in line with the COVID-19 regulations on www.webtickets.co.za.

Issued by the Mandela Bay Theatre Complex

 

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