This was an excellent production. It is a two hander which is lyrical and wonderfully played by Louis Emerick and Sean Shorte. There wasn’t an interval and this was a really good decision, because the narrative is brilliantly structured and takes you through the events starting with the life of the photographer Styles and ending up following the events around Sizwe Banzi’s life. The photographs in the background were used to great effect, telling the individual stories of the people who visit Styles’ photo studio. The story is set in apartheid South Africa and highlights the injustice and the effect on individual lives by the Reference Book system.
One of the visitors to the studio is Robert Zwelinzima, and when he comes to Styles’ studio, the story switches from Styles and the studio to Zwelinzima’s story and find out his history and the horror that he has to endure in the apartheid system. The title may feel that the play might end in tragedy, but even though the subject matter is very difficult and the characters suffer in a brutal system there is hope. The photographs in the studio are in black and white but at the end of the play they are in colour. Styles talks about the false smiles of those at the Ford car plant where he once worked, but at the end there is a sense the smiles are real and portray the hope of the people for a better a future.
The characters were played in such a way that I felt that the audience warmed to them. The play worked well with an audience response and it was a shame that there weren’t more in the audience to enjoy such a professional and entertaining production which a narrative that really moves you.
Stephen Joseph Theatre http://www.sjt.uk.com/details.asp?id=327
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