Sizwe Bansi is Dead

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sizwe Bansi is Dead is a workshopped play, created by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona. (The second name is often written Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, especially in later years, and linguistically "Banzi" is apparently the correct Xhosa usage, but conventional usage in South Africa has become to spell it "Bansi".)

The original text

An enormously influential workshopped play about a man (Sizwe) who takes on the identity of a dead man (Robert Zwelenzima), in order to circumvent the apartheid strictures and obtain work. Based on a photograph Fugard had seen and the experiences and recollections of Kani and Ntshona.

First performed on Sunday night, October 15th 1972 at The Space (Cape Town), directed by Fugard and performed by Kani and Ntshona. Lighting by Brian Astbury and stage management by Bee Berman.

Published in Statements : two workshop productions devised by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. Oxford University Press, 1974.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into French as Sizwe Banzi est Mort by Marie-Hélène Estienne in 2007

Performance history in South Africa

The play originated in Port Elizabeth where Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona worked together as the Serpent Players. When they attempted a public run of the play in Port Elizabeth it was closed down by the authorities.

1972: Performed at the Space Theatre, directed by Athol Fugard, with Winston Ntshona and John Kani. Lighting by Brian Astbury and stage management by Bee Berman. In November the play was presented by Ian Bernhardt for the Phoenix Players in the Men's Common Room at Wits University. Barney Simon directed Kani and Ntshona.

1974: The first performance of the play in a black township was in St Stephen's Church Hall in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth in September 1974.

1976: The play was performed in Umtata in the then Transkei. After the performance Kani and Ntshona were arrested for playing before mixed audiences. They were released after protests in London and New York.

1978: The play was seen for the first time at the Market Theatre, played by its original cats, John Kani and Winston Ntshona.

1982: Performed in the Baxter Theatre in 1982, directed by Athol Fugard, with Winston Ntshona and John Kani.

1989: Presented by Little Theatre Tours at The Playroom, Cape Town, directed by Damon Galgut from 4 to 9 December starring Linda Mpondo (Styles/Buntu) and Christopher Gxalaba (Sizwe Banzi). Stage manager Safoora Cassiem. This production was also staged on the Fringe, National Arts Festival 1990.

2006: Aubrey Sekhabi (director), Isaiah-Maphuntshane Setimo (stage designer), Mannie Manim (lighting designer) and Nomvula Molepo (lighting implementation); for the Market Theatre presentation of the Baxter Theatre production starring John Kani and Winston Ntshona, staged in the Market's Main theatre, 28 September - 29 October.

2011: Market Theatre, directed by Monageng Vice Motshabi, starring Omphile Molusi as both "Styles" and "Bunto" and Arthur Molepo as "Sizwe Bansi".

2014-15: Performed at the Market Theatre 26 November 2014 - 14 December 2014 and at the Baxter Theatre from 19 August to 12 September 2015. The production also went on an international tour. Directed by John Kani with Atandwa Kani (Styles and Buntu) and Mncedisi Shabangu (Sizwe). Lighting design by Mannie Manim and stage manager Lebeisa Molapo.

Performances outside South Africa

1973: Produced at London's Royal Court Theatre, then transferred to the Ambassadors. Directed by Athol Fugard, with Kani as Styles and Buntu and Ntshona as Robert/Sizwe. There, it won The London Theatre Critics award.

1974: After six previews, the Broadway production, presented in repertory with The Island, opened on 13 November 1974 at the Edison Theatre, where it ran for 159 performances. Kani and Ntshona jointly won Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Play for their performances in both Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and The Island.[citation needed]

1977: Centaur Theatre Company (Canada) production starring Alton Kumalo.

2006: Directed: Aubrey Sekhabi. Cast: John Kani, Winston Ntshona.

2007: Performed by John Kani and Winston Ntshona at the Royal National Theatre in London.

2007: Performed in French as Sizwe Banzi est Mort at the Barbican Centre, the Festival d'Avignon and New World Stage at the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto. Produced by CICT (Centre International de Créations Théâtrales · Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord), directed by Peter Brook with Habib Dembélé and Pitcho Womba Konga. Décor by Abdou Ouologuem and lighting by Philippe Vialatte.

2008: Performed at by John Kani and Winston Ntshona BAM Centre's Harvey stage in New York.

200*: Performed at The Mousetrap Theatre of the New English School in Jabriya, Kuwait, with Abdalla Ali as Sizwe/Robert, Charbel Rached as Styles, and Mohamed Mostafa as Buntu.

2010: Produced at the Court Theatre, Chicago, directed by Jon OJ Parsons with Allen Gilmore and Chike Johnson. Lighting by Lee Keenan, set design by Jack Magaw, costume design by Christine Pascual and stage management by Sara Gammage.

2011: Directed: Monageng Vice Motshabi. Cast: Omphile Molusi, Arthur Molepo

2014: Produced in London at The Young Vic, as a co-production with Eclipse Theatre, and taken on tour of England. Directed by Matthew Xia with Tonderai Munyevu and Sibusiso Mamba.


Astbury, 1979.

Tucker, 1997. pp 282, 295, 332, 363.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead theatre programme, 1989.

Newspaper and media reviews of the Centaur Theatre Company production held by NELM: [Collection: Fugard, Athol]: 1989. 1. 17. 7. 3.

Ruphin Coudyzer. 2023. Annotated list of his photographs of Market Theatre productions. (Provided by Coudyzer)

Theatre programme and other material held by NELM (2006 production).

The Citizen, 18 January 2011.

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to PLAYS I: Original SA plays

Return to PLAYS II: Foreign plays

Return to PLAYS III: Collections

Return to PLAYS IV: Pageants and public performances

Return to South African Festivals and Competitions

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page