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The Theatreguide.London Review

Blood Knot
Orange Tree Theatre  Spring 2019

Athol Fugard's Blood Knot was first performed in 1961 South Africa, where the government responded by arresting the actors and banning the play. When it was later performed in the UK, they took away the writer's passport.

The play’s great crime is to show the way the racism of apartheid intrudes into the most ordinary aspects of life for two brothers living in an area designated as 'coloured.'

Zachariah (Kalungi Ssebandeke) looks black, but Morrie (Nathan McMullen) could pass for white and that changes massively the kind of future each could live.

The first half of the play reminds us stylistically of Becket's Godot in the simplicity of the conversations with their repetition, uncertainty, humour and yearning in the daily physical routine of Zachariah's return from work, Morrie's preparation of food and his alarm clock reminder to read an extract from the bible.

Both men want a different life. Morrie saves money from Zachariah's work in a tin can, hoping to be able, one day, to buy them a small farm that would get them out of the run-down shack with its furniture of wooden boxes.

Zachariah's needs are more immediate. He wants a woman, and their solution to this is the pen-pal Ethel, till they realise from a picture sent by Ethel, that she is white and is coming to see Zachariah. That potentially means trouble for Zachariah given the government ban on sexual relationships between the different races.

Their solution is to have Morrie pretend to be Zachariah. But as they practice the game of Morrie being white the play shifts into an almost dreamlike violence.

As Zachariah comments of his brother, 'He went on the road and came back quite white. I don't recognise him anymore.'

This is a fine production with both Nathan McMullen and Kalungi Ssebandeke giving a restless nervous energy to the roles of two brothers held together by a blood knot.

Keith McKenna

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Review - Blood Knoe - Orange Tree  Theatre 2019