Man Friday John Kani

Age: Somewhere between angry young actor and “old fart” of South African political theatre.

Claim to fame: Overcame parental prejudice that grown men should not appear in public and make fools of themselves to win a slew of acting awards including an American Tony for his Broadway performance in The

Present occupation: Risking being labelled the Brian Mitchell of the theatre by staging a surprise comeback performance in the selfsame, much-revived play, which made his name more than 20 years ago.

Is that a big job? It’s a doddle compared with being executive director of the Market Theatre where he faces the gruelling task of putting bums back on seats in the once trendy complex.

But isn’t visiting the Market dangerous? Yes, but contrary to popular mythology it’s not the muggers you have to watch out for. You are more likely to be flattened by a minibus taxi whose occupants are urging, “Make the Bold,” the township war cry encouraging drivers to be more reckless so fans can get back to Soweto in time for a daily dose of The Bold and the


What’s that? The truth is that if there is any such thing as cultural glue between black and white, it is not a choice between Shakespeare or gumboot dancing, but the mutual passion for a soap about a group of good-looking Americans who have far too much money and spend it committing serial adultery.

So why doesn’t the Market just become more popular? Kani has mentioned staging the occasional imported farce. But in a surge of Pollyanna optimism opted instead for The Island, even though a politically relevant production like Titus Andronicus was an audience flop.

What if the gamble fails? Stand back for another round of accusations about what unappreciative Philistines we all are.

What is Kani likely to say about the decision? “The Island is a tribute to the spirit of the men on Robben Island who gave up their freedom for liberation. It is being performed now for all those who never had the opportunity of seeing it and for those who have waited to see it again.”

What is he least likely to say? “We honestly didn’t know what else to do and at least with The Island, I don’t have to learn new lines.”

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