The John Kani Theatre

T

he largest of the three venues in the Market Theatre complex honours multi-award winning actor, director and playwright John Kani. During his illustrious career, both locally and internationally, John Kani’s success against many odds epitomises the spirit of the Market Theatre. During the apartheid era, Kani was harassed by police, detained and even stabled several times but his artistic voice continued to soar with stories that mirrored the pain but which at the same time inspired hope.

Hailing from New Brighton, in the Eastern Cape, John Kani cut his teeth in theatre when he was still at school and with the Serpent Players where he worked alongside Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona. This collaborative relationship resulted in the internationally acclaimed productions  Sizwe Banzi is Dead (1972) and The Island (1973) which in 1975, earned Kani and Ntshona the joint-recognition in New York with the Tony Award for Best Actor.

John Kani’s long trail of accolades includes an Obie award (2003) in the US which acknowledged his contribution to theatre; and back home in South Africa in 2005, the South African government bestowed the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver on Kani in recognition of his contribution to theatre and the struggle for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. Kani also received the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation Award (2000) and the Olive Schreiner Prize (2005). In 2006, Kani was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Cape Town.

One of John Kani’s greatest legacies is the Market Theatre Laboratory which he co-founded with Barney Simon to give young actors a firm grounding in theatre training. Since its inception on 10 June 2014 the Market Theatre Laboratory continues to produce some of South Africa’s most successful young thespians.

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