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RSC TO PREMIERE JOHN KANI’S KUNENE AND THE KING IN A NEW CO-PRODUCTION WITH THE FUGARD THEATRE 25 YEARS ON FROM SOUTH AFRICA’S FIRST DEMOCRATIC VOTE

 

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The world premiere of Kunene and the King will take place in the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon this March before transferring to The Fugard Theatre in South Africa from 30 April. The opening coincides with the 25th anniversary of the first democratic elections after apartheid.

This moving and funny play, co-produced by The Fugard Theatre in association with Eric Abraham, will play as part of the RSC’s Summer 2019 Season:  

Kunene and the King, directed by Janice Honeyman: 21 March – 23 April 2019.

South African actor, activist and playwright John Kani (Captain America: Civil War; Black Panther; Lion King 2019) has written this new play and is joined by fellow South African – and RSC Honorary Associate Artist - Antony Sher (King Lear 2016 & 2018; Death of a Salesman). Janice Honeyman (Vice Versa; The Tempest 2009) is directing this important production.

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 over fifty years of apartheid has created whilst Jack’s health deteriorates at an unsustainable rate.

This two-hander provides a fitting tribute on the anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections as two men from contrasting walks of life are thrust together to reflect on a quarter century of change.

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

John Kani said about performing at the RSC:

“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 which also include 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.

“The play should be fascinating for a contemporary audience, both in the UK and South Africa.   It looks at the 25 years of democracy in South Africa with the full complexity of the situation - the good, the bad, the successes, the failures - but through the eyes of two ordinary, older men.  So it’s both a political play and a very human one.”  

 Director, Janice Honeyman added:

“John Kani and Antony Sher are both hugely experienced, very different actors who work amazingly well together as a team. This play is a microcosm of political negotiation over the last 25 years, and the rehearsal process has really been an example of give and take, of growing together. This play is not protest theatre, but rather it explores the personal relationships that develop between the two men and demonstrate our need for each other.

“The similarities between South Africa and the UK concerning political divisions bring the play into a conversation around contemporary issues in both countries, as well as about the history of difference in South Africa.”

-- End --

For further information on Kunene and the King in Stratford-upon-Avon, please contact the RSC press office on: 01789 412622

Or email: Kate.Evans@rsc.org.uk

For review tickets, please contact dean.asker@rsc.org.uk

For press images, please log on and sign in free of charge images.rsc.org.uk/

#RSCKunene


SUMMER 2019 IN THE SWAN 

Kunene and the King by John Kani

A Royal Shakespeare Company co-production

with The Fugard Theatre in association with Eric Abraham

Directed by Janice Honeyman

21 March – 23 April 2019

Press night: Wednesday 3 April 2019, 7pm 

The Provoked Wife by John Vanbrugh

Directed by Phillip Breen

2 May – 7 September 2019

Press night: Thursday 9 May 2019, 7pm 

Venice Preserved by Thomas Otway

Directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah

24 May – 7 September 2019

Press night: Thursday 30 May 2019, 7pm

LOW-PRICED TICKETS FOR NEW AUDIENCES, ENCOURAGING ACCESS TO THE RSC

Rush Tickets: Every Friday at noon, we release a range of tickets online from £10 for last-minute bookers. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis and may be for any areas of the auditoria, depending on availability.

Rush Tickets is supported by West Midlands Railway

First Time Fridays offers people who have never been to the RSC before the chance to buy £10 tickets for any Friday show, any week of the year. Up to two tickets can be bought for the show of their choice. Tickets are held for each production, with 20 tickets available for Royal Shakespeare Theatre productions, 10 for Swan Theatre productions and 6 for productions in the Studio at The Other Place. This offer is open to all those who are new to the RSC’s database.

The RSC Key and BP £5 tickets: The RSC Key is supported by BP and gives access to BP £5 tickets for 16-25s for all RSC productions, whether we are performing in Stratford-upon-Avon, London or on tour. The RSC Key is a free membership scheme for 16-25 year olds which offers a range of additional discounts and benefits, including special events with RSC Actors and Directors, competitions and exclusive content. BP £5 tickets can be booked in advance on the phone, online or in person, with some available for sale on the day of the performance.

WITH THANKS TO OUR SUPPORTERS

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk

The RSC Acting Companies are generously supported by THE GATSBY CHARITABLE FOUNDATION and THE KOVNER FOUNDATION

The Provoked Wife is supported by RSC Production Circle member Lord Carrington DL

The work of the RSC Literary Department is generously supported by THE DRUE AND H.J. HEINZ II CHARITABLE TRUST

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Royal Shakespeare Company creates theatre at its best, made in Stratford-upon-Avon and shared around the world.  We produce an inspirational artistic programme each year, setting Shakespeare in context, alongside the work of his contemporaries and today’s writers. 

We have trained generations of the very best theatre makers and we continue to nurture the talent of the future. We encourage everyone to enjoy a lifelong relationship with Shakespeare and live theatre.  We reach 530,000 children and young people annually through our education work, transforming their experiences in the classroom, in performance and online.

Everyone at the RSC - from actors to armourers, musicians to technicians - plays a part in creating the world you see on stage.  All our productions begin life at our Stratford workshops and theatres and we bring them to the widest possible audience through our touring, residencies, live broadcasts and online activity. So wherever you experience the RSC, you experience work made in Shakespeare’s home town.  Registered charity no. 212481 www.rsc.org.uk

About Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations who are building an inclusive, creative and sustainable society.

The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK. In 2017 we made grants of £40.5 million towards a wide range of work within the arts, children and young people, the environment and social change. We also have a £45 million allocation to social investments for organisations with the aim of creating social impact.

www.esmeefairbairn.org.uk

About The Fugard Theatre

The 320-seater Fugard Theatre and the 120-seat Fugard Studio Theatre is located within the historic Sacks Futeran building in Cape Town’s District Six, with the renovated Congregational Church Hall in Caledon Street as its entrance. Construction of The Fugard Theatre was underwritten by its founding producer Eric Abraham, who continues to underwrite the operational costs.

Athol Fugard is one of South Africa’s most significant and internationally acclaimed playwright. For over fifty years he has written soul-searing plays with roles for all South Africans which have moved audiences in South Africa and around the world to laughter and tears as they reflected the racism, barbarity and inhumanity of apartheid. Working with John Kani, the late Zakes Mokae and many others he created iconic black characters whose narratives profoundly changed the way millions of people viewed apartheid.  In his over thirty plays Athol Fugard champions truth and a fundamental universal humanity. In 2011 he received the ultimate recognition from one of the world’s most prestigious theatre communities - a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre.

The Fugard Theatre is proud to bear his name and will honour him by providing a crucible of creativity and beacon of humanity for all South Africans regardless of race, colour, gender or creed. The Fugard Theatre is proud too to be located in District 6 and honours the history and memory of that vibrant community which was so savagely uprooted during the apartheid era.

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