Monthly Archives: May 2014

Sizwe Banzi is Dead: An Anti-Apartheid Masterpiece Comes to the Albany

Sizwe Bansi Image

As Athol Fugard’s Apartheid era classic, Sizwe Banzi is Dead, arrives at the Albany, our Marketing Intern, Megan Bommarito, takes a look at the history of the Tony-nominated play.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead
, recognised as a cornerstone of the global anti-apartheid movement, is a gripping and thought-provoking tale of identity and the dehumanising nature of apartheid in South Africa. This significant revival of a theatrical classic arrives at the Albany soon after the 20th anniversary celebrations marking the inauguration of Nelson Mandela and the end of the apartheid. Sizwe Banzi is Dead is a play that examines the meaning of self and the inner turmoil of humanity and which resonates both individually and universally because of its importance in history and its relevance today.

In 1948 apartheid (‘total segregation’) became institutionalised across South Africa, separating and imprisoning non-white South Africans as the new all-white government began to take hold. Sizwe Banzi is Dead, written by Athol Fugard in collaboration with John Kani and Winston Ntshona who both starred in the original production, centres around Fugard’s experiences as a law clerk at the Native Commissioner’s Court in Johannesburg. Fugard, hailed by Time Magazine as “the greatest active playwright in the English-speaking world”, was born to a Polish/Irish father and an Afrikaner mother in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He experienced the brutalities of apartheid first-hand in his years as a clerk before becoming a playwright in the hope to expose the true nature of the injustices of South Africa. Read more about the history of the apartheid  here and Athol Fugard here.

At the time of its conception, Sizwe Banzi is Dead was a highly controversial political piece that swept the country. Debuted on 8 October 1972 at the Space Theatre in Cape Town, it was, along with Fugard’s The Island, a bold stand against apartheid, even leading to the arrest of Kani and Ntshona for its performance in Umtata in 1976. The trio brought Sizwe Banzi is Dead to a number of venues within the black community, from schools to family centres, angering many of the South African authorities and creating an air of defiance around the performances. In the original production, the performance opened each night with a monologue improvised using the news of the day as inspiration. The play made its debut in Britain a little more than a year later, winning The London Theatre Critics award and a Tony Award nomination for Best Play following its premiere in New York in 1974.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead is more than a play about the trials of one man during apartheid: it is a profound look at the struggle for freedom in the throngs of oppression that begs the existential question of what it means to be. Even today, Sizwe Banzi is Dead remains painfully relevant and has been beautifully revived by Matthew Xia, featuring the acting of Sibusiso Mambo and Tonderai Munyevu. Their performance delivers a clear message of the universal struggle of the human spirit and speaks volumes about the importance of freedom that resonates even today.

Sizwe Banzi is Dead is at the Albany Tuesday 27 May – Saturday 31 May with performances at 7.45pm and a Saturday matinee at 2:30pm. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Megan Bommarito, Marketing Intern, The Albany

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10 Recycling Facts that could help save the world

Theatre-Rites. "Rubbish".We have only one world to live on and 7 billion people to share it with. All of these people create a large amount of waste every day. Reducing our footprint on the planet by recycling and reusing is crucial, and in order to make a real difference, everybody has to take responsibility for their actions.

One theatre company has done just that: Theatre-Rites with their latest production, appropriately named Rubbish, explores the value of discarded objects, literally turning the contents of a dustbin into beautifully crafted puppets. Rubbish is here with us for May Half-Term on Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 May, and to celebrate their arrival, here are some mind-blowing facts about recycling that will get you thinking before you bin:

1) Using recycled glass uses 40% less energy than making new ones from all new materials. Glass takes up to 4000 years to decompose in a landfill yet can be recycled indefinitely.

2) Each tonne of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 3 cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 KW of energy and 7000 gallons of water, and yet the amount of waste paper buried each year would fill 103,448 double decker buses.

3) 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.

Keep Calm and Reduce, Reuse, Recycle image4) The UK produces more than 100 million tonnes of waste every year. One tonne is about the weight of a small car. In less than two hours, the waste we produce would fill the Royal Albert Hall in London. Every eight months it would fill Lake Windermere, the largest and deepest lake in England.

5) A single recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.

6) The energy saved from recycling one plastic bottle will power a 60w light bulb for 6 hours!

7) An average person throws away 74kg of food waste each year, which is the same as 1077 banana skins.

8) On average every person in the UK throws away their own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks.

9) Incinerating 10,000 tonnes of waste creates one job, landfilling the same amount of waste creates six jobs, but recycling the same 10,000 tonnes creates 36 jobs.

10) It takes between 400 and 500 years for a Styrofoam cup to decompose. It takes an orange peel six months to decompose.

To find out more about Rubbish and to book tickets, click here.

Allison Gold, Marketing Assistant, The Albany

Rubbish image

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Resident Organisation of the Month: Apples and Snakes

This month’s featured resident organisation is Apples and Snakes, the leading organisation for performance poetry in England, with a national reputation for producing exciting and innovative participatory and performance work. By working with highly creative individuals across the country, Apples and Snakes seeks to nurture, support, and create opportunities for emerging talent and push the boundaries of the art form, artists, and audiences.

Founded in 1982 by a group of poets, Apples and Snakes sought to create more opportunities for performance poetry and be the voice of those who have been marginalised and disenfranchised. In 2002, the organisation made the transition to a national organisation and currently has programme co-ordinators in London, the North East, the South East, the South West, and the West Midlands.

Apples and Snakes’ programming has included incredible performances such as Jawdance, a poetry open mic night, and My Deptford, a celebration of the diversity and culture of Deptford at the Southbank Centre. Their upcoming production, Telling Tales, featuring award-winning UK poet Patience Agbabi, is a re-imagining of Chaucer’s masterpiece The Canterbury Tales. Renaissance One recently sat down with Patience to discuss it:

What 3 words would you say best describe you?

Imaginative, impatient, impassioned.

Tell us a little about your new book Telling Tales.

It’s a modern version of The Canterbury Tales, each story told by a unique character from ladette to ‘ladies’ man’.

You’ll also be touring Telling Tales;  what kinds of events are you going to do and what do you enjoy most about spoken word?

I’ll be doing two kinds of events: arts centres with blatant sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and cathedrals, with covert sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.  Spoken word can connect on lots of different levels, much more than a traditional reading. The words fly straight from the mouth to the heart of the audience with no page in between. That’s the beauty of spoken word.

Which artists have influenced you the most and why?

George Szirtes, Michael Donaghy and Paul Muldoon for form; Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage for half-rhymes and accessibility; Jackie Kay for monologues and Black British perspective; Pascale Petite for imagery; Sharon Olds for honesty and reinventing the poetic line…and that’s judge the living poets. To answer this question in 20 words is impossible. There are times when form really does overconstrict a writer.

What’s an important piece of insider knowledge you have as a creator and performer?

If it works on the page, it will work on the stage. If I believe in the writing it fuels the performance.

What are you most passionate about? (doing/achieving/working)

Inspiring young people and enabling women to reach their full potential through my writing.

Where would you say your style of performing comes from?

It comes directly from the poem, knowing it off by heart and performing straight from the heart.

What creative masterpiece do you wish you had written? and why?

I’ve just written it.

Does current affairs or popular culture influence your writing and performing, and if so, in what way(s)?

The recession has permeated my recent work; and a huge range of music, film and visual art. It makes the writing richer, multi-dimensional.

 Tell us about an upcoming project that excites you, and how we can find out more about it.

I’m working with The Full English on a Chaucer Teaching Pack, to enable The Canterbury Tales to feature more widely on the curriculum. I got properly into writing poetry studying The General Prologue and the Pardoner’s Tale for A’ Level. I’ve always enjoyed narrative poetry headed by a strong character.

What’s your experience been of making inroads in the spoken word and/or music industry?

Living in a large city helps!  Pre-internet, when I was starting out, I attended loads of live events in London because it was exciting and I wanted a context for my own work. Even now, you can’t beat networking face to face.

Patience Agababi image

Telling Tales is here for one performance only on Wednesday 21 May, 8pm. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Megan Bommarito, Marketing Intern, The Albany


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Why We’re Proud to be the Home of Fun Palaces

Fun Palace medium, Emily Medley

Today we’re pleased to announce that we are the recipients of an Arts Council Exceptional Award, to bring to life the national Fun Palaces project, taking place across 80+ venues on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October 2014 and beyond. Gavin Barlow, CEO of the Albany, explains how our relationship with Fun Palaces came about.

In 2013, Stella Duffy started something rather magical. At Improbable’s annual Devoted and Disgruntled event, she posed a simple question: Who wants to do something for Joan Littlewood’s centenary in 2014, that isn’t another revival?

Joan was one of the Twentieth Century’s most significant theatre directors and cultural pioneers, and that question led to a discussion about bringing to life the vision Joan created with Cedric Price for the Fun Palace: one space linking arts and sciences, entertainment and education. Perhaps, the group thought, a Fun Palace could exist anywhere. They began to conceive a vision of Pop-Up Fun Palaces across the country, appearing for a glorious, weekend-long celebration of culture.

Stella teamed up with Co-Director Sarah-Jane Rawlings, the brilliant creative producer who helped to launch Meet Me at the Albany, the Albany’s artist led day club for the over 60s.

In many ways, Meet Me at the Albany has become the coalescence point for how we think about our work as an organisation. What we’re interested in is finding ways for communities – and often those who find it harder to access culture – to meet with artists and practitioners in a genuinely democratic, accessible space, for exchanges that are equally enriching for all parties. Meet Me at the Albany is, for us, the perfect example of that.

Five key principles underpin the Fun Palace:

• Fun Palaces are FREE
• Fun Palaces are LOCAL, with community involvement, engagement and participation at heart
• Fun Palaces are INNOVATIVE, finding new ways to bring the arts, culture and sciences together
• Fun Palaces are TRANSFORMATIVE, intending to transform the place/spaces they take place in: they transform the makers, and they transform the participants
• Fun Palaces are ENGAGING: Fun Palaces are about full participation. Sitting and listening is fine, as long as they also include opportunities to have a go

It was clear in discussions with Sarah-Jane that there were countless ways in which the thinking underpinning our work at the Albany married with (and is of course, directly or indirectly, inspired by) Joan and Cedric’s vision.

We host many free or extremely low cost events – it is possible to buy a ticket for £1 for any show in our season. We’re driven by our community: those £1 tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis to punters on Deptford Market, the beating heart of our local high street that adjoins our building and spills over into our café. And we present a diverse array of arts and cultural forms (you are often as likely to encounter a cooking demonstration, a gardening club, a creative writing workshop or a yoga session at the Albany as you are a theatre show).

But it is the idea of arts and culture as a level playing field, a space for free exchange between all participants, that resonates with us most. So it made perfect sense to us to work with Stella and Sarah-Jane – as well as a streamline but quite exceptional team – to bring Fun Palaces to life.

Now, a year and a bit on, over 80 partners have signed up to create their own version of a Fun Palace on Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 October 2014. Ultimately, everyone involved shares a belief that arts and culture transform lives. Joan believed that, too.

So in many ways, Fun Palaces is more than just a celebration of an extraordinary individual. It’s a national campaign that shouts, sings, shimmies, stomps from the rooftops: arts and culture are a crucial part of human life, and they are truly, truly glorious. Let’s make sure they belong to everyone.


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