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Review: SIZWE BANSI IS DEAD is a Thought Provoking Performance at the Matrix Theatre Company!

The Matrix Theatre Company opened their 2016-2017 season with Sizwe Bansi is Dead, an incredibly thought provoking play, by Athol Fugard, John Kani, and Winston Ntshona. The three-man play directed by Oliver Pookrum is a powerful story about man living under apartheid rule in South Africa whose only hope for financially supporting his family means he must relinquish his very name.

The 80-minute, intermission free, actor-driven production of Sizwe Bansi is Dead is full of talent. The play is extremely well cast with each actor suited for their role and doing a wonderful job portraying each additional role they were given to represent in the show.

James Abbott plays the role of Sizwe Bansi. Abbott was quite wonderful to watch as he embodied the distraught Bansi who was stuck at the major crossroad in his life with the dilemma of a finally getting the job and place he always dreamed of at the cost of his name. He played the role with an honesty that was very raw that made the audience feel like they were in his shoes and faced with the same hard decision. Jonathan Jones plays the role of Styles. Jones was fantastic on stage with his lively presence making it hard not to watch him. He was very real on stage that made it easy for him to connect with audience. Falah Cannon plays the role of Buntu. Cannon was very strong on stage and used his emotional eyes and voice well to help add to the intensity of his characters. All three actors are very dynamic on stage throughout the show and work very well together as a whole. They knew when to take the spotlight yet when to fade back and share as not to overshadow each other or the important dialogue of the play.

Sizwe Bansi is Dead is a play that makes the audience think due to the important subject matter, but it also makes them think with the way it is presented. Pookrum had the actors use the space well and deliver the dialogue in thoughtful and direct ways that emphasize the meaning of the words. His choices in directing were smart and beneficial to the overall voice of the important story the play was there to communicate.

Sizwe Bansi is Dead is an interesting type of play as it is not the typical show the world is used to going to see, but it is an important show; one that should be experienced, especially today. Although it takes place back in the 1970s during the apartheid in South Africa, the issues and dilemmas of this play are very relatable to our reality in 2016. The Matrix Theatre Company made a wonderful choice of opening up their season with Sizwe Bansi is Dead. Go out and support Detroit theatre, see the amazing performance by the actors in it, and let your mind think a little while you are at it!

Sizwe Bansi is Dead is currently running through October 16th at the Matrix Theatre Company in Detroit. For more information or tickets, visit

James Abbott & Falah Cannon
Jonathan Jones, James Abbott & Falah Cannon
James Abbott & Falah Cannon

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