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KUNENE AND THE KING Comes To The West End's Ambassadors Theatre In 2020

KUNENE AND THE KING Comes To The West End's Ambassadors Theatre In 2020

John Kani's two-hander Kunene and the King will transfer to the Ambassadors Theatre, London for a strictly limited West End run from 24 January to 28 March 2020.

Co-produced by the RSC in partnership with Cape Town's Fugard Theatre, this timely new play marks 25 years since South Africa's first democratic elections. The production first premiered in the RSC's Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon in March 2019. The production transferred to the Fugard Theatre in April where it played to sell-out audiences.

South African actor, activist and playwright John Kani (The Island, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, Black Panther) will reprise his role as Lunga Kunene alongside South African actor and RSC Honorary Associate Artist, Antony Sher (King Lear 2016 & 2018; Death of a Salesman 2015) in this important production directed by Janice Honeyman (Vice Versa 2013; The Tempest 2009). The production will again feature live music performed by Lungiswa Plaatjies, who also returns for the West End run.

John Kani last performed at the Ambassadors in 1974, where he appeared alongside actor and co-author, the late Winston Ntshona, in the Tony award-winning Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, which went onto receive the London Theatre Critics Award for the Best Play of that year.

John Kani said, "In 1973, Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island, which I co-wrote with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona, transferred from The Royal Court Theatre to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End. Peter Brook brought his company Paris to see the two plays and thus began a friendship between Peter and I that has lasted till today. Returning to the Ambassadors Theatre brings back those fond memories for me.

It was an honour for me to be invited to bring my new play, Kunene and the King, to the Swan, and to be part of the RSC's 2019 Season. Working with my friend Sir Antony Sher is truly one of the highlights of my career as an artist.

The play is a review of South Africa's 25 years of democracy; our successes and our failures in creating a united, non-racial, just and democratic society. In South Africa and in the UK, audiences will have an opportunity to look into the mirror of life and see themselves. I hope they will like what they see."

Antony Sher said, "Working with John Kani is an honour. He is one of my heroes - both as an actor and an anti-apartheid activist. Performing a two-hander with him is particularly special, remembering those legendary two-handers he did with Winston Ntshona: Sizwe Banzi Is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973). This will be my third RSC production directed by Janice Honeyman after Hello and Goodbye in 1988 and the RSC's 2009 co-production of The Tempest, with the Baxter Theatre, featuring John Kani as Caliban. She is, quite simply, one of the best directors I know.

Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, said, "Our productions exist within a global culture: we love to share our work from Stratford-upon-Avon with audiences across the UK and around the world. The RSC has had a long relationship with theatre colleagues in South Africa. In 2006, Janet Suzman brought her co-production of Hamlet from the Baxter Theatre to the Complete Works Festival, in which John Kani played the role of Claudius. In 2009, a co-production of The Tempest, with the Baxter Theatre, directed by Janice Honeyman, with John Kani as Caliban and Antony Sher as Prospero, inspired John to write Kunene and the King, a co-production with the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town and Eric Abraham.

I am delighted that London audiences will have the opportunity to experience this timely and important piece of work in one of the very theatres in which John Kani and Winston Ntshona first performed their seminal play, Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, in 1974. Both Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island helped changed attitudes in South Africa and in the world about apartheid. Twenty-five years on from South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994, this remarkable new play continues to ask important questions about South Africa's past, present and its hopes for the future".

Daniel Galloway, Managing Director and Producer at the Fugard Theatre, said, "John Kani's critically important new play comes at a time when a 25-year-old, democratic South Africa is at a crossroads. The play is an important vehicle which enables a deeper, better understanding of each other and enables that ultimate goal of acceptance across our common humanity in our beautiful country. The Fugard Theatre as a collective is enormously proud of our very first collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company. What a remarkable debut on the West End for the Fugard Theatre, which coincides with our 10th birthday celebrations in 2020."

Kunene and the King follows the story of Jack Morris (Antony Sher), a terminally ill sixty-five-year-old white actor living a relatively comfortable life in the suburbs of Johannesburg, and Lunga Kunene (John Kani), a sixty-nine-year-old black retired male nurse. Having suffered innumerable losses during apartheid, Lunga must learn to deal with the tension that more than fifty years of apartheid has created whilst Jack's health rapidly deteriorates.

The production has been designed by Birrie Le Roux, with lighting by Mannie Manim, music by Neo Muyanga and sound by Jonathan Ruddick.

Tickets available via the RSC Box Office: 01789 331111

A limited number of £5 tickets will be available for those aged between 16 and 25 years old.

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