Monthly Archives: November 2015



Matthew Hahn has developed a programme of cultural exchange between young people in the United Kingdom and young people in South Africa. He is a Senior Lecturer at St. Mary’s University College who teaches undergraduate Drama and Applied Theatre students. These students spend ten days in Durban, the South Coast and Harding, South Africa to deliver and participate in a range of community workshops and drama productions as part of an annual arts & cultural exchange programme with Headroom Productions, Durban.
The students use a range of interactive performances, games, songs and poetry to engage with local communities to explore the cultural differences and similarities between the attitudes of young people from both countries. The trip offers students the opportunity to take the last two years of learning and apply it in a completely different setting. As well as working with the local community, the group are able to showcase interactive forum theatre through a number of public events.

The students’ stay is programmed in advance with opportunities to be fully engaged & emerged within the community with visits to local schools, hospitals, community centres, etc. all with the possibility of using drama as a means of expression & debate within that particular community.

It is a vital part of the exchange programme that the British young people give as much as they receive. It needs to be more than a ‘voluntourism’ opportunity, but an opportunity to leave a sustainable legacy with others returning for future opportunities. It would be expected that the community be involved as an intrinsic part of the exchange as well. Debate, discussion & reflection within the community are critical.

The hope is to make this programme a sustainable and rewarding experience for both groups of young people as well as for the various communities with whom they work in South Africa.

Here is a link to a twenty minute film on the trip in May 2014:

[] filmed in conjunction with Headroom Productions.

For more details about the research and development of the programme since its inception in 2011 at St. Mary’s University College, please visit this link to the blog [].

Theatre for a Change’s International Training Programme

Theatre for a Change’s International Training Programme


1. Sustainable Behaviour Change

Theatre for a Change is well known for its use of face to face behaviour change workshops to improve the sexual and reproductive health of groups including teachers, sex workers, the Police, the Army, children, and young people. The workshops encourage participants to actively identify and explore their own patterns of behaviour, and develop sustainable strategies to achieving the changes they wish to make.

This package would be suitable for organisations who wish to engage participants to in a more active, physical and experiential learning process that brings about long term changes, driven by individual needs.

2. Advocacy through Interactive and Legislative Theatre

Theatre for a Change empowers participants to tell their stories and change the attitudes of their peers, communities and decision makers through interactive and legislative theatre. This is a unique approach for promoting deeper empathy within the audience, encouraging the exploration of new behaviours that challenge traditional power hierarchies, and, in the case of legislative theatre, promoting specific policy and legislative changes.

This package would be of particular interest to organisations that are looking to use participant-led advocacy to catalyse change.

3. Advocacy through Interactive Radio

Theatre for a Change uses interactive radio to enable listeners to take part in a live drama focused on promoting behaviours that protect sexual and reproductive health and providing a platform for advocacy of sexual and gender rights. The radio is a cost-effective and sustainable approach for enabling the participation of large numbers of people. Theatre for a Change is the only organisation currently running an interactive drama over the radio. Interactive radio is particularly useful for organisations that are keen to go to scale in terms of reach and geography, and who wish to build on and strengthen the thematic areas of other projects they are running.

Forum, Invisible & Interactive Theatre Programme

Forum, Invisible & Interactive Theatre Programme

Forum Theatre is an interactive theatre form invented in the early 1970s by Augusto Boal in Brazil. Forum Theatre shows the main character (the protagonist) trying to deal with an obstacle, difficulty or oppression and failing because of the resistance of one or more of the other characters (the antagonists). The initial play ends ‘badly’ and the audience, which has been targeted because they face similar issues that are faced by the protagonist, is asked to come into the world of the play to see if they can change the ending for the better. In this way, as a community, the actors and audiences ‘rehearse behaviour change.’

Forum Theatre provides the framework and the chosen community provides the content to their plays. In this way, Forum Theatre has a vast range of opportunity to examine oppressions faced by a variety of communities; for this reason, it can be applied to most difficulties that people face on a daily basis.

Invisible Theatre works along the same lines as presenting a problem to the audience, but in this case the audience does not realize the problem is being presented by actors. The goal of invisible theatre is to present a problem to a community and the actors then leave with the hope that the discussion continues.

Hahn has worked with a variety of communities [school children, the disabled, recovering drug addicts, young girls in danger of becoming sex workers, sex workers attempting to better their circumstances and others] using forum theatre to examine behaviour as well as how to rebalance power within relationships. This has led to successful behaviour change on a personal level as well as legislative change from those who hold power over the powerless.


Since 2002, , Matthew Hahn, has been programming forum theatre projects within the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi & South Africa.

The Ethical Leadership Workshop based on The Robben Island Shakespeare play

The Ethical Leadership Workshop based on The Robben Island Shakespeare play

The Ethical Leadership Workshop based on The Robben Island Shakespeare play had it pilot at the South West Gauteng College in Soweto, South Africa in August 2014. It ran over two weeks and delivered a presentation / performance of Shakespeare, monologues from the former political prisoners’ interviews as well as new pieces of writing created by the college students. The students examined the current leadership situation on a personal, local & national level. They also examined and reflected on their responsibility as young leaders as well as future leaders within South Africa.

These workshops have been inspired by South African Sonny Venkatrathnam, a former political prisoner on Robben Island and critic of the current political state of affairs within South Africa and utilizing his copy of ‘William Shakespeare’s Complete Works,’ the team has come together over a shared believe that there is a dearth of ethical leadership in today’s world. As inspirational as many of the chosen quotes were about leadership, according to Sonny, many of the men who chose these quotes whilst in prison and who are now currently in politics or business within South Africa have not lived up to such inspiration and have caused great harm to this young democratic country.

But unethical leadership is certainly not unique to South Africa. From dictatorships that pockmark Africa, to a Nobel Prize winning president who condone the use of drones to drop bombs on countries thousands of miles away, to the abandonment of a green agenda in the United Kingdom, many world leaders are driven by short-term goals and personal wealth creation rather than true – ethical – leadership. The Ethical Leadership Workshop have been set up as a direct response to such difficulties found in South Africa as well as the rest of the world by examining ethical leadership whilst young people are still in education.

Shakespeare’s characters portray this wide range of ethical leaders. From Richard III and Macbeth whose inner demons drove them to the height of leadership at any cost to Henry IV who seeks to lead from the middle through consultation with his men before going into battle.

Political prisoners, like Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV’, sought to learn from each other the foundation of ethical leadership whist on Robben Island. From interviews, many of the men describe their time Robben Island as a ‘University’ where the men taught and learned from each other using the literature of Shakespeare, Sophocles and Marx amongst others. Twenty years into a South African democracy, these men also reflect on how far they have come and how far they still have to go before true democracy is achieved for the masses and whether or not it was all worth it.

The Ethical Leadership Workshop is very flexible in it delivery. The students examine what lessons can be learned and applied by today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. Shakespeare’s texts have been used in the past to explore how a good leader is formed, applies his or her vision and beliefs, behaves and manages the people and situations around him or her. We want to build on this work, using interviews that Hahn conducted with men who were imprisoned on Robben Island to focus the minds and hearts of tomorrow’s leaders on the price one pays for truly transformational, inspired, ethical and sustainable leadership. From a dramatist’s perspective, we would explore use of voice, space & body to highlight how a leader might be a source of inspiration to others.

Shakespeare’s texts have a track record in exploring how a good leader is formed and leads [generally through the exploration of Henry IV as an example of a ‘good’ leader; Macbeth & Richard III as examples of ‘bad’ leaders]. We want to build on this using the interviews with the men who were imprisoned on Robben Island and focus the training on students who might be going into positions of leadership of one form or another in the future.

The aim or the workshop is to benefit the students through being inspired to be better leaders through the words of Shakespeare & the former political prisoners and to create a pathway to future leadership. If possible and of benefit, Hahn would be interested in working with local teachers to help shape & develop it in ways in which they think is best for their students. He would be keen to work with them to finely develop the workshops. The project is quite flexible in terms of deliverability. At minimum, a reduced version could be delivered in 5 days: one day to work with the teachers and four days to deliver to the students. This can then be easily scaled up depending on the arrangements to include term long modules.

The Robben Island Bible

The Robben Island Bible

The book’s ‘fame’ resides in the fact that the book’s owner, Sonny Venkatratham, passed the book to a number of his fellow political prisoners in the single cells asking them to mark his favourite passage with a signature and date. Signatures included Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and Mac Maharaj and 28 others. These men signed passages within the text, which they found particularly moving, meaningful and profound. The selection of text provides fascinating insight into the minds, thinking and soul of those political prisoners who fought for the transformation of South Africa. It also speaks to the power of Shakespeare’s resonance with the human spirit regardless of place or time. But, as Sonny explains it, he just wanted a ‘souvenir’ of his time in the single cells. This verbatim play is based on interviews that Hahn conducted in 2008 & 2010 with eight former political prisoners who signed this book intertwined with the chosen Shakespearian texts.
There have been numerous staged readings of the play including the Cape Town Shakespeare Society, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Scotland [as part of the Connect ZA Season / Commonwealth Games], Montana Shakespeare Festival [April 2014], South Africa House, London [April & June 2014], Oxford University [April 2014], Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC [June 2013], the British Museum in London, UK [October 2012], the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre in London, UK [June 2012], the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, SA [February 2010], the Richmond Theatre in Richmond, UK [March 2009] and the Robben Island Museum in Cape Town, SA [February 2009].

Dissemination of the play and supporting research and development includes college workshops at the Southwest Gauteng College in Soweto, South Africa on ‘Ethical Leadership’ [August 2014], a paper focusing on the archive and dissemination of the audio and video records of the play at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative: Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town [August 2014], a paper at Wits University for their ‘Cultural Leadership’ module [August 2014], a paper for the African Theatre Association [July 2013].
The Bodleian Library at Oxford University stores the archive video, play script, transcripts, audio & blog.
For more information about the play, The Robben Island Bible, please visit this website:

Recognising confident and non-confident behaviour in self and others – Interactive Theatre Workshop

Recognising confident and non-confident behaviour in self and others [Aylesbury, United Kingdom]

This skills development workshop was targeted at ex drug users and drinkers to enable them to get the skills they need to get a volunteering post or employment.  The workshop was about developing skills, such as interpersonal skills, communication and problem solving, as well as developing confidence.

This is the third time I have worked with LLC Consultancy, a social enterprise that aims to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and individuals through capacity building of staff in health and social care services, evaluative research of services and interventions and through training and support of groups and individuals with experience of drug and alcohol related problems.  I always enjoy working with groups from LLC as they are always well experienced in the topic at hand and, from which, I can always learn.  It has been a pleasure to work with them again.  The aim of the workshop was to improve communication skills in order for the participants to gain confidence as they begin to look for a volunteer or paid position.

I was early to the workshop and the learners were reviewing a powerpoint presentation on non verbal communication and creative problem solving which dovetailed neatly into the work that I was facilitating with them.  I was greatly interested in the presentation and incorporated some of what they discussed into my workshop:


Slide No. 1:

Factors affecting Communication:

Facial Expression





Past Experience


Slide No. 2:

9 Steps to Creative Problem Solving:

State the Problem

Identify who owns the Problem

Gather relevant information

Clarify the Problem

Verbalize alternative / possible solutions

Evaluate possible alternatives

Choose alternative

Implement alternative

Evaluate / Reflect on the outcome


This included examining specific factors around communication as outlined in the slide above.  I asked them to be very specific when creating the scenes with their facial expression, gestures, expectations and past experiences and referenced their earlier learning.  I also reviewed with them the nine steps to creative problem solving and asked them to focus on staging & clarifying the problem after seeing the scenes and then, before touch tagging began, verbalize alternative solutions and evaluate possible alternatives.

For me, it was an excellent opportunity to put the morning learning to the test [as touch tag is so good at doing: testing the ‘theory’ and seeing if it actually can work].  It also made the whole day a really complete package for the learners.

The workshop was a success and followed the usual pattern of participants being wary at first [though it was nice to have a couple of ‘stooges’ in the audience who had taken the workshop in the past and were eager to participate] but then soon warmed up to the fun of being ‘silly’, performing and watching others perform.  As this was a workshop on recognising confident and non-confident behaviour in self and others, I asked them to think about moments in the recent lives where a breakdown in communication affected negatively their confidence.  The stories they told were both from a professional and personal perspective. One of the most touching and stimulating was a personal story around a divorced couple’s child and how the mother & father are dealing [or not dealing] with the separation.  It provoked a lot of ‘alternative’ solutions, but few proved practical when put to the Touch Tag Test.  The story-teller was evidently affected by the public telling of the story as well as the attempts to change the outcome.

As a closing exercise, I facilitated Boal’s ‘Family Portrait’ exercise, where I take a picture of an ‘idealized’ version of a participant’s family and another one of the ‘realistic’ portrait of the same family.  This too proved to be quite emotional from both the participants and the creator’s point of view.  The creator pointed out that she had never physically seen how she deals with her mother until she created both an ideal version [where she was off in the very corner of the picture] and the realistic version [where she was in the centre of the picture] and what those two very different versions of the relationship with her mother means.  Powerful stuff!

I ‘handed over the stick’ quite a lot with this group as it was a group that wanted to and was certainly capable of leading.  I would give them the basic outline of what was to be achieved in each exercise and then let them run with it.  I think this showcased my ability to be flexible yet confident in the workshop delivery of its aims.  I didn’t come in as a teacher, but rather as someone who could as equally learn from their experiences showcased through the freeze frames and performances.

Although the workshop ran long, the day naturally ended with an overview reflection of everything the learners did that day [morning and afternoon sessions].  From the feedback, the participants spoke about the ease at which I put them.  They said that they were pleased with what they were able to achieve and that my facilitation gently but firmly guided them throughout.  Though none thought they could lead any of the exercises [and that was not one of the aims], two did express an interest in ‘using more drama’ in some of the work that they do. Unfortunately, I was unable to follow up with them to further examine what they meant and if I could support them.

This skills development workshop is targeted at ex drug users and drinkers to enable them to get the skills they need to get a volunteering post or employment. We hope that after this pilot workshop we are commissioned to roll out this workshop to a wider audience.