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Athol Fugard’s 'Blood Knot’ is a timeless tale of courage and brotherhood

Mncedisi Shabangu. Picture: Lungelo Mbulwana

Mncedisi Shabangu. Picture: Lungelo Mbulwana

Published Oct 17, 2021


Athol Fugard’s “Blood Knot” is returning to the Market Theatre for a limited season.

The classical production is set to run from Friday, October 15, until Sunday, November 14.

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Award-winning theatre creatives have collaborated for the first time to bring to life this timeless production after it first premiered in 1961.

Directed by James Ngcobo, “Blood Knot” stars veteran actor Mncedisi Shabangu and rising star Francois Jacobs.

Blood Knot looks at the love between brothers, the kind that transcends skin colour when Zacharia (Shabangu) and Morris (Jacobs) reunite after what seems like a lifetime.

Set in the 1960s, the play is based in the suburb of Korsten in Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth.

A two-hander follows the story of two brothers with the same mother but different fathers.

As the story unfolds, audiences will witness how the two brothers navigate the intricacies of being stuck in a place that offers them nothing but poverty.

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The siblings are forced to dream of another reality, something beyond their current circumstances. The theme of hope is very present in this play.

Shabangu is excited to return to the Market Theatre, where his journey as a theatre maker and performer began nearly three decades ago.

Elaborating on his role, he says: “Zacharia is a fantastic character. He worked at an amusement park, in the food section until he started developing a problem with his feet.

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“He was then transferred to stand at the gate to chase away black kids who are coming to the amusement park because it's a whites-only park.

“So the theme of brotherhood is stronger because it transcends time. It transcends political periods. It's just two brothers who are getting to know each other because they never got to have that opportunity in their lives to know each other. And then they both come with a baggage of the past.

“It's clear in the story that the one brother is black, the other brother is light-skinned, he is not black.

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“So how does that come into play? Here you can see the two characters, they say they are brothers, but they are not the same colour. So the question is: what happened?"

Like many classic productions, “Blood Knot” remains relevant six decades later.

“The two also question the theme of what are some changes in the country since the apartheid era had ended?

“We still have places where, not by law but by practice, are still predominantly white.”

Take, for instance, the idea of private beaches in South Africa, where certain races are denied access, so this theme park is a reflection of such places that still exist in democratic South Africa.

“As artists, we are finding joy in celebrating the literature that we have in this country because We need to acknowledge the fact that we've got a rich history of literature in this country, and that's part of the movement,” Shabangu adds.

This riveting production tackles issues of race, love and brotherhood.

The play is also dedicated to the memory of the great Zakes Mokae, who made the role of Zacharia famous.

The Market Theatre recently announced that Craig Palm, who was set to play Morris, has “regrettably” pulled out of the production due to personal reasons.

“It is unfortunate that Craig will no longer perform in Blood Knot, but we support his decision and wish him well,” adds Ngcobo.

Jacobs, who took over from Palm, is no stranger to Market Theatre stages.

He starred in Athol Fugard’s People Are Living There in 2015 and made his directorial debut in 2020 with Victor Gordon’s “Brothers”, which premiered to full houses at the Market.

Jacobs and Shabangu have worked together in Brothers. What is also exciting is that Shabangu mentored Jacobs as he took the reins of director for the first time.

“They will now form a different partnership and call on their creative gods to seal this magic and produce yet another masterpiece,” he explains.

Don’t miss “Blood Knot” at the Market Theatre, Newtown, from 15 October –14 November.

Tickets are available at Webtickets from R90.

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