Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Theater Legend Kani Turns Eye to Modern South Africa

Theater Legend Kani Turns Eye to Modern South Africa

Sunday, 12 June, 2022 - 08:45
In South Africa, John Kani is a legendary figure of protest theatre MARCO LONGARI AFP

When John Kani launched his acting career in the 1960s, the only stage he could find was an empty snake pit at a shuttered South African museum.

His latest production, "Kunene and the King", opened with the Royal Shakespeare Company and played on London's West End.

It's now resuming a South African tour that was interrupted by the pandemic's theater closures.

"In 2018, I had the idea that the following year, we are going to celebrate 25 years of South Africa's democracy since the dawn of the new, non-racial, non-sexist rainbow nation," Kani told AFP.

The play he wrote tasks Lunga Kunene -- an older, black, male nurse -- with caring for an older white actor dying of liver cancer but desperate to survive long enough to accept the role of Shakespeare's "King Lear".

"I wanted to create something that would force the one not able to live without the other one," Kani said.

He's definitely created a theater about theater, with Shakespeare running through its veins.

"I suddenly found myself engrossed in the history of these two men, from opposite sides in one country, who see South Africa differently, but the only thing that would bring them together is their love of Shakespeare," he said. "And that's how King Lear got inter woven into the story."

Editor Picks