Category Archives: Current Work

The Rivonia Trial Audio Recording with John Kani & Jack Klaff

Today, the wonderful South African actors, John  Kani & Jack Klaff recorded over  Zoom powerful extracts from The Rivonia Trial Tribunal play.  This forms the very early stages of developing a full play:


Walter Sisulu:  ‘I wish you could live like us just for one day. Then you wouldn’t say how good things are for us. ‘

[Please note, racist language is used in this extract from the Rivonia Trial Tribunal Play]

And here is another audio extract from after we finished recording.  It gives the listener a bit of background and colour to the Rivonia Trial and its importance today.



For more information about the play and the R & D behind the play, please visit here.

New Normal / New Writing Theatre Festival, 17& 18 July 2020.

The Common Air Theatre Company is producing the New Normal / New Writing Theatre Festival, a 24 hour festival of new writing under the new normal of virtual creation and performance.

Over a twenty-four hour period, new plays will be written, rehearsed and performed via a digital platform. If you are interested in participating, please email us with a CV and state if you would like to be considered as a director, playwright or actor for this festival. We are also looking for one or more stage director.

Brief Outline of Event:

Friday – At the opening event for all participants, play themes will be chosen out of a virtual hat alongside production teams including one playwright, one director and one or two actors.

From Friday night to Saturday morning, the playwright writes to the theme within the parameters of number of actors and Zoom rehearsal / performance.

Saturday –
Pieces are submitted to the directors and the rehearsal process begins.
On Saturday evening, the pieces are premiered.
After the performance, we all head to the [virtual] pub.

Sunday –
Debrief

Is 2020 the new 1984? Making Theatre in a ‘New Normal’

As part of The Peacock Theatre Festival of Civil Liberties, I will be co-facilitating the Monobox Maker’s Workshop entitled ‘Is 2020 the new 1`984?’ where we will be creatively discussing and actioning artistic responses to the ongoing [and future] limitations on our civil liberties due to Corona Virus measures.

For more information, please visit:

https://monobox.as.me/schedule.php?appointmentType=13901781

imPEACHable a [very] new play by Matthew Hahn

On Tuesday, 19 November 2019, at the Eleto Chocolate Cafe in Folkestone, I presented my latest tribunal play based on the private and public transcripts of the ongoing impeachment trial of the President of the United States.

The play examines the central tenet of the trials, that is, whether there was a ‘Quid Pro Quo’ offer in a telephone conversation with the US President and the Ukrainian President in July 2019.  Donald Trump insists he did nothing wrong and that his conversations with the Ukrainian President were ‘perfect.’  But the play hears from the others in his administration about how perfect the phone call might have been.

In an age of fake news, witch hunts, spin and short news cycles, tribunal theatre is a tremendous platform on which to examine and illuminate the context and causes of trust and leadership and the potential of both to breakdown.

The play is edited from congressional testimony from October & November 2019.

imPEACHable is ripped from the headlines theatre, to be presented on a regular basis throughout the entire congressional hearing.

The play opens with a recording of the ‘perfect’ phone call between the United States President Donald Trump & the Ukrainian President Zelensky followed by the edited closed-door testimony of two witnesses, Ambassador Sondland and Marie Yovanovitch, from October 2019.  The transcripts were released in early November of over 900 pages which have been edited to 30 pages.  As the play progresses, upstage the live hearings are being broadcast in real time to add to the metatheatrical nature of the trial itself [Donald Trump live tweeting during the trial and the Chairman of the committee commenting on said tweets to the witness].

The Rivonia Trial Tribunal Play

I am in the early developmental stages of a first draft of a tribunal play based on the Rivonia Trial court transcripts.  Referred to as “the trial that changed South Africa,”in Oct 1963, opponents of Apartheid including Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki & Walter Sisulu went on trial for sabotage.
A ‘tribunal play’ is a verbatim play edited from transcripts of court proceedings.  Tribunal theatre offers an immediacy & proximity to important events that few witnessed originally in ways that film or print could never do.
Following the completion of this early draft,there will also be a reading of the play in Cape Town, South Africa by Educape Trust.
I want to do this project now because I believe that this internationally significant trial has been overlooked.The ethical leadership qualities of those defendants are still relevant.  In an era of autocrats & politicians buoyed by cults of personalities,there is a demand to examine a different type of leadership – ethical leadership by consensus.  These 13 men exemplify a selflessness that is rarely apparent in today’s politicians.I hope the play can contribute to the current debate on leadership styles.
As part of the development process, John Kani & Jack Klaff have recorded extracts from the trial – specifically the electric exchanges between Walter Sisulu and Bram Fischer, Defence lawyer and Walter Sisulu and Percy Yutar, Prosecuting lawyer.

John Kani [centre] with Atandwa Kani and Omphile Moulusi [2009], reading of The Robben Island Shakespeare.
Jack Klaff reading extracts from The Robben Island Shakespeare [2017].

A new £720k grant launched in Kenya & Liverpool as part of Newton Fund’s UK-Kenya Joint Partnership on Non-Communicable Diseases

A new £720k grant launched in Kenya & Liverpool as part of Newton Fund’s UK-Kenya Joint Partnership on Non-Communicable Diseases.

As part of the project, I will be serving as a theatre for development specialist and delivering interactive theatre projects for it.

 Launched at KEMRI in Nairobi last week and in Liverpool on 23 January 2019, TUPUMUE, or let’s breathe in Swahili, is a partnership between LSTM and the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI(link is external)).  and is jointly funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF(link is external)) of Kenya and the Medical Research Council (MRC(link is external)) of the UK.

Dr Hellen Meme, Dr Jeremiah Chakaya and Dr Evans Amukoye hosted LSTM investigators Professors Kevin Mortimer and Graham Devereux to celebrate the launch, as well as representatives from the Kenyan MoH and the County Director for Education. A second launch meeting will be held at LSTM next week to take forward ideas generated in Nairobi with all other UK-based investigators.

The project – which will last 3 years – aims to generate new scientific knowledge about the early life course origins, burden, determinants, and prognostic significance of non-communicable lung disease in Kenya by studying the lung health of children and adolescents from two very different communities.

KEMRI Principal Investigator Jeremiah Chakaya said “Our focus is on children and young adults aged 5 to 18 because this is the age at which lungs are developing and ill effects at this time of life can impact future health. We will work in two areas: an informal settlement (Mukuru) and a wealthier area (Buruburu). These two areas are geographically very close but very different in terms of their socioeconomic make up.”

The study will also use participatory theatre to help explore community knowledge about what damages lungs, and the lived experience of air pollution and lung health. The results of the study will be fed back to the two communities via the medium of theatre and other creative outlets such as comics and murals.

LSTM Principal Investigator Professor Kevin Mortimer is Co-Director of IMPALA. He said “One of the novel aspects of the study is the active use of participatory methodologies to firmly embed the study into the communities being investigated. Building  on LSTM’s  research strengths in tropical lung disease, the study aligns with many aspects of the Kenyan National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable diseases and will be a major step in the establishment of a Centre for Research Excellent in chronic respiratory diseases at KEMRI.”

The objective of the UK-Kenya Joint Partnership on NCDs is to deliver research funding that will underpin progress towards achieving the objectives laid out in the Kenyan NCD strategy beyond 2020, and to enable the pursuit of shared research interests. The funders are also encouraging projects that incorporate elements of capacity building within them

Dr Hellen Meme said “This project will strengthen the existing relationship between KEMRI & LSTM in a way that is responsive to locally-identified priorities. The study will be conducted, analysed and disseminated in close partnership with African clinicians, scientists and community members which will contribute to capacity building and help raise a critical mass of researchers to expand chronic lung health research in Kenya and beyond.”

Theatre for Development practitioner to contribute to the UK-Kenya Joint Partnership on Non-Communicable Diseases

As part of the delivery, I have been asked to facilitate for this project to deliver a co-created field-based epidemiological study in two contrasting sites in Kenya – Mukuru and Buruburu – that will characterise the clinical characteristics and lung function of children aged 5-18 years.  This will be accomplished through the use of participatory techniques to contribute to study design and explore community knowledge about what damages lungs and the lived experience of air pollution and lung health.

Interdisciplinary research network to tackle air pollution in Murukku, Nairobi, Kenya.

Comic produced by Louis Netter for project by University of Portsmouth.

Comic produced for project by Louis Netter (University of Portsmouth).

The Stockholm Environment Institute is leading a new partnership bringing together African and European researchers, practitioners and community members interested in air pollution in low-resource settings in sub-Saharan Africa. The AIR (Action for Interdisciplinary Air Pollution Research) Network has been awarded £169,000 by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Global Challenges Research Fund Partnership Award, and is being led by Dr Patrick Büker, Senior Researcher at SEI’s York centre.

As a theatre for development specialist, with community members from the informal settlement of Murukku in Nairobi I will be creating pieces of Forum Theatre & Legislative Theatre to be presented in Septmber 2018.

HEADROOM CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAMME [DURBAN]

HEADROOM CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAMME [DURBAN]

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:

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JgHj-Y_5oI] 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 [http://whatcanidodifferently.blogspot.co.uk/].