Category Archives: Previous Work

imPEACHable @ the South by Southeast Festival, Gulbenkian Theatre 13 February 2020

On Thursday 13 February 2020, at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury, imPEACHable, my latest tribunal play based on the private and public transcripts of the ongoing impeachment trial of the President of the United States, will be performed as part of the South by Southeast Festival.
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.
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  testimony of several witnesses: Ambassador Sondland, Marie Yovanovitch and others from October & November 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 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].
Now that Donald Trump has become the third president to be impeached and the trial in the Senate begins, the script can be regularly updated to give audiences access to a trial with international ramifications.

Commedia dell’Arte Workshop in Folkestone

9 to 13 July 2018

The Arts Council England has just invested in a week-long exploration workshop of Commedia dell’Arte that I am producing.  The facilitator will be Mitch Mitchelson whom I got to know as both of us taught at St. Mary’s University in London.

The weeklong ‘Phase I Commedia dell’Arte’ workshop will culminate with a private performance and feed-forward session for stakeholders in a larger ‘Phase II Community Performance’ in October 2019 as part of CounterPoints Art Platforma Festival in October 2019.  There are four professional theatre makers and four non professional theatre makers from in and around Folkestone who will be participating.


‘Send Them All Back’, Rehearsed Reading at the Museum of Comedy, Leicester Square Theatre on 6 July at 2.30pm

My new play,  co-written with Peter Norgate, Send Them All Back is having its first public rehearsed reading in London at the Museum of Comedy, Leicester Square Theatre on 6 July at 2.30pm.  Free tickets can be reserved in advance by following this link:

RSVP

The Story: 

Britain isn’t working and something has to be done. The government, after getting unprecedented political consensus, has instructed that all the people in Britain who aren’t British have to go. Especially if they’re European.  As the ferry companies line up to take the government contracts to ship the immigrants back to the continent, power- and responsibility- shifts to Britain’s new city mayors who have to make sure all the people and political pieces still fit together.

William Jameson, Mayor of Dubris, gets busy carving out his legacy while rubbish piles up in the streets, millennials rail against the jobs their given and the inter-web revels in every missed opportunity and blunder that happens.  A married British/French couple have to leave their home and flee to Scotland for safety rather than face being treated like cattle on the ferries.  As the Europeans leave and Britain seizes up, Mayor Jameson raises his voice in the vacuum, pleading for his Europeans to come back. Shocked and appalled, his advisors assume it’s the end of his career, but then the fog horns of hope blare in the distance- the Europeans hear the call.

Hoping against hope, all eyes turn to the channel and as the ferries land, their doors opening an unimaginable sight confronts the world- Europe’s sent all of the British emigrants and ex-pats back to Blighty.

Suddenly a refugee crisis of British voters is on Mayor Jameson’s doorstep and he, and his fellow mayors, have to act quickly. Order has to be found. A mouthpiece in the emigrant rabble that can be reasoned with. John- desperately trying to find his wife- takes the dubious honour.  After the horse-trading, the deals roll into the action- the returners get food and shelter if they do all the jobs the British Remainers refused to do. But with those jobs that keep the wheels turning comes power and opportunity.  It doesn’t take long for the returning Brits to start harvesting crops which they stockpile, to start digging up roads that cause massive tailbacks. This Britain still isn’t working and the returners have a solution- give us the reins.  Boxed into a corner, and with all of Dubris baying for his blood, Mayor Jameson reluctantly gives up his role as all the other mayors across Britain are having to do to these British interlopers.

The experiment is ended. The world is much the same. Britain still isn’t working.

Send Them All Back is rooted in its origin as a very loose adaptation of Douglas Turner Ward’s play Day of Absence.  The name of the play comes from a BBC interview from 2014 in which an interviewee suggested to a reporter, who is asking about immigration in the small village, ‘Send  them back.  Just send them all back.’  This interview got me thinking about Ward’s play and what would indeed happen if immigrants [including me as a US citizen] were indeed ‘sent back’.  The anger expressed in Ward’s play where African Americans disappeared for a day is mirrored in the anger of this play where immigrants are forced to leave the United Kingdom.

Like Ward’s play, Send Them All Back, is a satirical piece of social criticism, but one that has become more and more like a documentary as the events eventually leading up to a United Kingdom leaving the European Union are concluded. Widening out the lens further, it is a commentary on the interdependence of humanity’s ecosystem and of internationalism.   It is to be played on a bare stage with minimal props and set pieces to ensure the unrelenting quick pace of the piece.  Ideally, as in Ward’s cast of all black actors playing Southern white characters, it would be performed by European actors impersonating a variety of English stereotype.  The play closes asking the question of whether the upheaval has made things better for the native population of the United Kingdom:

‘There we have it guys: one of the biggest, high-risk political experiments in the past three hundred years and the word on the street is- it’s alright.’

The Robben Island Shakespeare Reading at the Southbank Centre 11 August 2018, 7.30pm

As part of the Nelson Mandela: The Centenary Exhibition 2018 at the Southbank Centre in London, The Robben Island Shakespeare will be performed on 11 August at 7.30pm.  This reading and the wider event marks the 2018 centenary of iconic leader Nelson Mandela’s birth in this exhibition about his life, career, and commitment to equality and justice.

For free tickets to this  event, please book here.

This exhibition explores the life and times of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918 – 2013) and marks the centenary of his birth. It provides insight into Mandela’s journey from young freedom fighter to becoming the inspiration for an international movement against South Africa’s violent and oppressive apartheid system, and an emblem of an ongoing struggle to build a more just and equitable world.

 

The Ethical Leadership Workshop Conference Paper based on The Robben Island Shakespeare play @ the Applying Shakespeare Symposium, The Shakespeare Institute

I was invited to present at the Applying Shakespeare Symposium at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon.  My presentation examined and detailed my work in ‘Ethical Leadership’ using the play, The Robben Island Shakespeare.

Through the words of William Shakespeare & former South African political prisoners, the aim of the workshop is to inspire the participants to create a pathway to ethical leadership.  The participants will analysis and speak selected Shakespearian texts and texts from the play, The Robben Island Shakespeare as well as create their own new pieces of writing on their views of ethical leadership.   One of the key aspects of the workshop is to examine the ability of Shakespeare & the former political prisoners to educate and spark debate around the subject of ethical leadership.  The purpose of the workshop is to come to a group definition of the practices of ethical leadership, briefly share some of Shakespeare’s lessons on Leadership, and offer some applications for leadership development.

Workshop Outcomes:

  • The participants will explore how the theme of leadership is portrayed and explored in a selection of Shakespeare’s plays and in interviews with a selection of former political prisoners from Robben Island.
  • The participants will examine the current situation of their own behaviour around leadership and of those currently in leadership roles.
  • The participants will make positive changes in their own behaviour around leadership.
  • The participants will create pieces of new writing with a focus on young people’s perceptions of ethical leadership.

 

 

Play Launch at South African House 28 March 2017

RobbenIslandShakespeare

During the Apartheid years in South Africa, a copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare was smuggled around the prison on Robben Island. The book’s significance resides in the fact that the book’s owner, Sonny Venkatratham, passed it to a number of his fellow political prisoners in the single cells, including Nelson Mandela, asking them to mark their favourite passages with a signature and date.

[Jack Klaff reading an extract from the play]

Informally known as “the Robben Island Bible”, numerous prisoners selected the speeches that meant the most to them and their experience as political prisoners. In 2008 and 2010, playwright and scholar Matthew Hahn conducted interviews with eight former political prisoners in South Africa.

Offering a vivid and startling account of the experience of these political prisoners during Apartheid, this extraordinary verbatim play weaves Shakespeare’s words together with first-hand accounts from these men.

They offer their reflections on their time as Liberation activists and, twenty years later, on the costs, consequences and whether or not it was all worth it. The play is published alongside a preface by Sonny Venkatrathnam and an introduction by South African actor, director , playwright and cultural activist John Kani.

 

[The High Commissioner of South Africa, HE Mr. Obed Malaba at the Launch.]

Ubuntu: sharing South Africa [Friday 20 January 2017,18.00 Clore Centre for Education Free, booking required]

Ubuntu’ is a phrase widely used in southern Africa, meaning the ‘universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’.Come and celebrate the enduring soul of South Africa, and the shared connections its history inspires, through an evening of music, performance and workshops. Grab a drink at the bar, enjoy themed food, and discover more about contemporary South African culture.In collaboration with the South African High Commission.

As part of the evening, theatre for development facilitator Matthew Hahn will be directing a new work consisting of extracts from ‘The Complete Works of William Shakespeare,’ extracts from his play, The Robben Island Shakespeare and newly created works by young South Africans who participated in Hahn’s ‘Ethical Leadership Workshop’ inspired by Shakespeare & South African Liberation leaders.

British Museum’s South Africa: the art of a nation Special event Memories of Mandela [Friday 13 January 2017, 18.30–20.00 BP Lecture Theatre]

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Staged in the auditorium officially opened by Nelson Mandela in 2000, this discussion celebrates and explores the life, character and enduring legacy of the South African leader on his nation and the world.

A panel of speakers whose lives and careers wereinfluenced by the leader includes John Battersby, co-author of Mandela: A Life in Photographs (2011) and author of the Afterword in Mandela: the Authorised Biography by Anthony Sampson (2011), Pumela Salela, Brand South Africa; playwright and theatre director, Matthew Hahn and John Carlin, journalist and author of Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation (2008, adapted into the film Invictus).
Presented in collaboration with South African High Commission.
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The ‘Robben Island Bible Ethical Leadership Workshop’ in Cape Town, October 2016

At Wynberg High School in Cape Town, South Africa, Matthew Hahn was invited by the Shakespeare in Schools Festival South Africa and supported by the British Council to facilitate a five day interactive theatre workshop for young people that examines current leadership on a personal, community, national and international level.

A group of 11 Grade 11 students [who had previous drama and Shakespeare experience through the Shakespeare in School Festival, South Africa programme] were selected through an application process for their potential for creative and principled leadership. The students came from a variety of backgrounds, with the Chris Hani Arts and Culture School in Khayelitsha township, Islamia College and Wynberg Boys High being among the schools represented.  This new generation of young leaders spent a week of their school holidays learning lessons from the experiences of political prisoners on Robben Island and a variety of Shakespeare’s characters and writng about leadership from their perspective as teenagers living in South Africa in 2016.

The workshop culminated in a performance of selected Shakespearean quotes, extracts from the interviews and new pieces of writing created by the young people.

Student Feedback on the Workshop:

‘I learnt a lot about myself and about ethical leadership, and what it means to lead ethically.’

‘I have an entirely new and different perspective on Shakespeare’s works (for the better), and am very grateful that I got the opportunity to look at and learn about his work with such insight.’

‘My fellow grade elevens who attended this workshop with me are some of the greatest students I have ever met, and I look forward to seeing how each and every one of us contribute to making the world a better place by being ethical leaders.’

‘I liked how we got an opportunity to write and discuss our opinions (which were actually listened to and appreciated).’

‘I finished the week knowing that I can be a greater leader and had acquired more and strengthened my leadership skills.’

‘The week went very well; it was very exciting. I would like to rate the workshop 10 of 10.  Even the food was good!’

Students’ views on Leadership:

‘I would act as a leader in my own life by first bringing change in my life like doing self-introspection. To change what’s bad to good and what’s good to much more best and I can also be a leader by making sure that I bring change and keep my promises because leaders with empty promises mislead the world.’

‘This week has helped me get to know to tackle the problems arising in my leadership process.  What makes an ethical leader and how you lead, personally, locally, nationally and internationally.’

‘What I could contribute to South Africa’s future is the level of education, the importance of clean environment and the importance of being an ethical leader.’

‘Someone who sees all as equal, and has a good moral compass. By taking initiative and responsibility, as well as being ambitious and inspiring to those around me.’

‘By being strong, but also open-minded and listening to the opinions of others.’

‘By being able to empower others, as well as educate them and be able to make an important decision (based on consideration of all involved).’

‘I have learnt that I am someone who prefers to lead from behind, but also make sure that my view point and opinion is heard. I learnt that leadership is not only about the person leading, but also about those that are being led.’

 

The course is designed to examine selected speeches of Shakespeare and the primary interviews with former political prisoners on Robben Island in their treatment of the issue of ethical leadership as well as to develop the themes of the balance of power, the use and abuse of leadership, the adjustment to political and social change and the complexity of society that is present in each.  Each speaks eloquently about the vaulting ambition necessary in leadership but also of the selfish & destructive nature that this ambition of political leaders can sometimes take.  The purpose is to define the practices of ethical leadership, briefly share some of Shakespeare’s and the former political prisoners’ lessons on leadership, and offer some applications for ethical leadership development.

The course is targeted at young people & their educators within and outside of the education system in South Africa.  It can be run in a community centre or within an educational setting and can be scaled up as needed due to the module basis of the work.  The course can consist of practical drama workshops, seminars, creative writing tutorials, lectures, self-study and opportunities for reflection as well as forward thinking.  The teaching methods for the course are highly participative and interactive in which the learners are acknowledged experts in their own lives and experiences.

Aims:

  • Indicate how the theme of leadership is developed in Shakespeare’s plays.
  • Review the current situation of your own behaviour around leadership.
  • Review the current situation of those in leadership roles [personal, local, national & international].
  • Explore the interviews with the former political prisoners and how they view leadership.
  • Explore how to make positive behaviour changes your own behaviour around leadership.
  • Show those with power to change laws or practice around leadership positive behaviour changes.
  • Create Ethical Leaders: ‘Be the change you want to see’

 

Course’s Objectives (Learning Outcomes):
Knowledge and understanding of

  • How Shakespeare and the former political prisoners explore concepts of leadership.
  • How our own behaviour can be positively changed around leadership.
    Current practice of leadership and its critique.
  • Empowering those not in a position of leadership to take on those roles or to influence those in leadership positions.

The impetus behind the creation of this course:

The founding principle of this course is the belief in the ability of Shakespeare & the former political prisoners to educate and spark debate around the subject of ethical leadership in today’s society and the belief in the participants’ empowerment through the experiential and creative nature of the course.

 

I have had the great honour to interview several former political prisoners who have become South African MPs, ANC National Executive Committee members and contributors to the development of a democratic South Africa – all whose impact on today’s South Africa is enormous. From these most humble of men come gems of great leadership qualities.  The importance of citizenship and one’s ability to make positive social change were at the forefront of every interview.  I see this course as a wonderful opportunity to use the former political prisoners’ chosen Shakespearian quotes along with their interviews to develop current and future ethical leaders.