Kunene and the King

Ambassadors Theatre
West Street, London

Public Previews: 24 January 2020
Opens: 29 January 2020
Closes: 28 March 2020

Buy tickets:

Buy tickets online

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square

Location street map

Theatre seating plan

Show times
Monday at 7.30pm
Tuesday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 3.00pm and 7.30pm
Thursday at 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 3.00pm and 7.30pm
Sunday no shows

Runs 1 hour and 35 minutes with no interval

Seat prices
? to ?
(plus booking fees if applicable)

Kunene and the King

The Royal Shakespeare Company's production of John Kani's new play Kunene and the King in London starring Antony Sher and John Kani

South Africa, 2019. Jack Morris is a terminally ill sixty-five-year-old white actor living a relatively comfortable life in the suburbs of Johannesburg. Lunga Kunene is a sixty-nine-year-old black retired male nurse who suffered innumerable losses during the apartheid era. As Jack's health rapidly deteriorates, these two men from contrasting walks of life are thrust together to reflect on a quarter century of change.

The cast features Antony Sher as 'Jack Morris' and John Kani as 'Lunga Kunene', with live music performed by Lungiswa Plaatjies. Directed by Janice Honeyman with designs by Birrie Le Roux, lighting by Mannie Manim, music by Neo Muyanga and sound by Jonathan Ruddick. This production transfers to London's West End following an aclaimed season at the RSC's Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 2019.

Antony Sher's London theatre credits include the role of 'Nicolas' in Jamie Lloyd's revival of Harold Pinter's One For The Road at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2018; the title role of 'Willy Loman' in Gregory Doran's revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2015; 'Phillip Gellburg' in Iqbal Khan's revival of Arthur Miller's Broken Glass at the Vaudeville Theatre 2011; the title role of 'Edmund Kean' in Adrian Noble's revival of Jean Paul Sartre's Kean at the Apollo Theatre 2007; 'Iago' in Gregory Doran's revival of William Shakespeare's Othello at the Trafalgar Studios in 2004; the title role of 'Gustav Mahler' in Gregory Doran's production of Ronald Harwood's Mahler's Conversion at the Aldwych Theatre 2001; the title role in Gregory Doran's revival of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac at the Lyric Theatre in 1997; 'Henry Carr' in Adrian Noble's revival of Tom Stoppard's Travesties at the Barbican Theatre in 1993, and transfer to Savoy Theatre in 1994; and 'Austin' in John Schlesinger's production of Sam Shepard's True West at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre (now Dorfman Theatre) in 1981.

When this production opened at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 2019, Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail thought that, although "it's not the most sophisticated drama and the two men are authorial mouthpieces with little investment in each other.. it's still an intriguing 90-minute snapshot of life in South Africa today." Sam Marlowe in the Times said that "it is formally conventional, even slightly schematic. Yet it's electrified by its clear-eyed political reckoning, by passion and by fine performances... At its finest, the writing is rich and raw... It's a shattering head-to-head between two citizens of the same country who, in many ways, still inhabit separate worlds. Engrossing, and executed with consummate skill." Alice Saville in the Financial Times highlighted how, "twenty-five years since apartheid ended, it's fascinating and necessary to see John Kani bring things up to date. His play calls out to a South Africa that is not changing fast enough, while showing how Shakespeare's words can both confront and confirm old prejudices." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard observed that "it's doubtful whether South Africa will be overjoyed with this clunky piece of work as an anniversary present to celebrate 25 years since the first democratic election... the sad news about this co-production with Cape Town's Fugard Theatre is that it's a bit of plod and something of a box-tick of elements of recent South African history."

Originally seen at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon - previewed from 21 March 2019, opened on 3 April 2019, and closed on 23 Apr 2019 - with a cast that featured Antony Sher as 'Jack Morris' and John Kani as 'Lunga Kunene', with live music performed by Lungiswa Plaatjies.

"A sustained but not overly serious 90 minutes of transracial reckoning with a dash of tentative reconciliation thrown in, Kunene and the King is a simple but effective two-hander written by South African John Kani... Though it's a bit hackneyed to have an old actor lose his marbles while preparing to play Lear, it provides some ancillary psychological justification for the way Jack expresses an unpleasant residual regality and even downright distasteful flashes of racial superiority that contradict his surface liberal credentials as an actor." The Sundy Telegraph

"This absorbing comedy-drama marks the 25th anniversary of the first democratic elections in post-apartheid South Africa, and it duly interrogates that achievement and its aftermath. But it's also about the points where cultures touch, about Shakespeare -- and specifically the 'deep English' of King Lear, which the pair ponder together. If there must be a criticism, it's that there aren't many surprises, particularly for anyone familiar with The Dresser, by Ronald Harwood. It's like a play you've seen before and loved the first time." The Sunday Times

"Here's an amazing encounter with two great actors in a terrific new play. It's written by South Africa's great theatre star, the 76-year-old John Kani... The great man teams up with Sir Antony Sher, also originally from South Africa, in a play set in that country today... But in this match between patient and carer, the old country versus the new, Shakespeare becomes both referee and healer. The two men find through him a way of meeting each other, equal to equal... It's a deeply human play: fierce, funny and never cheesy. I can't recommend it too highly." The Mail on Sunday

Kunene and the King in London at the Ambassadors Theatre, public previews from 24 January 2020, opens on 29 January 2020, and closes on 28 March 2020