Matthew Hahn

Theatre Director
Theatre for Development Facilitator

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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.

Over Lockdown, I have had the privilege to work once again with John Kani & Jack Klaff on an audio recording of extracts from the fiery exchanges between Walter Sisulu and the procecuting QC, Percy Yuktar:  

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

John Kani was born in New Brighton, South Africa as Bonsile John Kani. He is an actor and writer, known for Black Panther (2018), Captain America: Civil War (2016) and The Lion King (2019). Won Broadway’s 1975 Tony Award, along with his co-star Winston Ntshona, as Best Actor (Dramatic) for “Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island.” Was also nominated with Ntshona and Athol Fugard as co-authors in the Best Play nomination for the same production. Winston Ntshona, Athol Fugard and his play, “Size Banzi Is Dead & The Island,” on Broadway in New York City was nominated for a 1975 Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for Best Play.  He and Winston Ntshona were awarded the 1975 Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for Best Actor for “Sizwe Banzi is Dead & the Island,” on Broadway in New York City.

Jack Klaff is a South African-born actor, writer and academic.[1] He has held professorships at Princeton University and Starlab, known for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), For Your Eyes Only (1981) and King David (1985).  

Both Jack & John recently recorded on Zoom Catastrophe by Samuel Beckett directed by Matthew Hahn for The Peacock Theatre Festival for Civil Liberties.




© Matthew Hahn 2020