Tag Archives: Identity

“Sizwe Banzi Is Dead”

at the Young Vic Theatre, Thursday 13th February 2014

*Originally written for Exeunt*

Sizwe Banzi Is Dead was written collaboratively by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona, and in performance the text itself was often improvised by Kani and Ntshona, meaning the running time would vary from night to night. For the three collaborators, it was clearly a very personal and personalised piece of work. How, then, do a different trio tackle the play in a different context, over forty years after it was first staged? And what does this piece have to say to us in 2014?

Director Matthew Xia first creates a ‘false’ context by separating the audience into “whites” and “non-whites”, forcing us through different entrances so that we must sit apart from one another in the theatre itself. Continue reading “Sizwe Banzi Is Dead”


“The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project” – A Conversation

*Originally written with Catherine Love for Exeunt*

Dan: In the opening address to audiences of The Bloody Great Border Ballad ProjectLorne Campbell attempts to convey his own internal struggle when considering the question of the referendum of Scottish independence next year. He initially began as leaning towards being anti-independence, but after talking to other artists and friends, he realised it wasn’t as simple as he thought, causing him to enter a state of confusion about the whole thing. Now, a few months down the line, as this massive, knotty, crazy idea gains traction, he realises he is just as confused. But it’s “a higher quality of confusion”.

And, to me, this is what makes The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project so special, inhabiting a position far more interesting and exciting than Tim Price’s I’m With the Band. Continue reading “The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project” – A Conversation

“It’s Like He’s Knocking”

created and performed by Leo Kay

at Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 24th May 2011

Immersive theatre is on the up all over the theatre world, no less than at Warwick Arts Centre, where the current season is breaking the boundaries between audience and performer. We are being asked to interact with performers like never before, bringing us closer to the story and delving deep into the human psyche. In It’s Like He’s Knocking, Leo Kay proves there are two ways of engaging an audience: look them in the eye, and get them sozzled.

We are led through the bowels of the Arts Centre, winding up in a smokey dressing room, adorned to resemble a bedsit. Kay sits in a chair, playing an accordion, before proceeding to tell us the story of his past, present and future. Particular emphasis is placed on his father and grandfather, both of whom had extraordinary lives with tragic endings, and Kay uses this to hang on his own reservations, dreams and ambitions. It’s transfixing.

But this is more than just a monologue. It’s Like He’s Knocking is theatre, in every sense of the word. Interspersed among Kay’s speech are moments of sheer spectacle, which is remarkable considering the size of the space. One moment sees a pitch black room being lit by a tiny window to the outside world, illuminating Kay’s face to the tune of man-made sea sounds. In another we watch Kay and his musician, Mestre Carlao, stare each other in the face intently while playing the most extraordinary ritualistic music on accordion and tambourine respectively. In the finale, Kay downs multiple vodka shots while stumbling around the room, as lights flash and music blasts. It’s the sort of spectacle which wouldn’t seem out of place in the Olivier.

Towards the beginning of the piece, we are asked to drink a toast of vodka, immediately drawing us in. Later, we write down memories of our own childhood and partake in a small wager. As the piece continues, it slowly becomes clear why these are relevent. It’s a beautifully structured piece of writing; sometimes, we are listening to facts about Kay’s ancestors, and the next about how the performance gestated. Both are interlinked, each utterly dependent on the other.

Kay is mesmerising. It’s a touchingly honest performance, if indeed you can call it a performance at all. It’s so clearly from the heart that it feels wrong to call it something normally associated with pretence and externalisation. He takes us on a journey, keeping us hooked from the moment we walk in. When he looks you in the eye, he’s talking to no one but you. It’s supported beautifully by Carlao’s ethereal soundscaping, created using random objects and a looping machine.

The small-scale spectacle of this performance is not hindered by the intimacy of the venue, nor vice versa. At its heart, It’s Like He’s Knocking is a story about how a man arrived where we are sitting. Kay’s script (can you call it that?) is brutally honest and charmingly poetic, and he pulls at strings in our own hearts which we were perhaps not aware of. Without wanting to sound like I’m hyperbolising, I haven’t left a performance feeling so emotionally drained since Jerusalem. But maybe that’s the vodka talking.


“A Game of You” by Ontroerend Goed

at Warwick Arts Centre, 11th May 2011

There’s very little one can say in a review of a performance such as Ontroerend Goed’s A Game of You without divulging the details to future audiences. This is one of those things which will be ruined by any spoilers; something you have to experience yourself to truly understand. A Game of You asks us to reevaluate not only the way we view theatre, but also the way we view the self and our identity.

The audience member, alone, is taken through a series of booths and corridors as our mentor shows us more and more about ourselves, drip-feeding us snippets of information and asking us to do the same to others. We are watcher and watched, but never know which role we are in at any given time. It’s clear that how we want to be seen is never the same as the reality of our public persona.

It’s also fascinating to see how much of our own life story we place upon others, suggesting perhaps a need to find connections with others. Obviously, my experience will differ vastly from others’, but it wouldn’t surprise me if common themes are found across the board.

A Game of You, let me clarify, is completely safe, and you only ever reveal how much you want to. Yet honesty is the best policy here; only by saying the first thing that comes to mind at each point can you delve deeper into your personality. Being given a CD allows the performance to continue long after the ‘performance’ has ended, allowing our epiphany to remain ongoing. If you want to truly see yourself, you’ve got to see this.