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.]

About Matthew Hahn

Matthew Hahn is an independent creative producer, playwright, theatre director and theatre for development facilitator specialising in creating theatre for social change, for examining behaviour and for improving communication skills. He works with emerging and established theatre makers and finding new ways for audiences and communities to access art through partnerships. He works both nationally and internationally and has produced work in the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Ghana, and South Africa. As a theatre for development practitioner, he facilitates interactive and participatory theatre projects focusing on social cohesion, peace-making and conflict resolution. His play, The Robben Island Shakespeare, has been performed in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa; he regularly facilitates 'Ethical Leadership' Workshops in South Africa based on his interviews with former South African political prisoners and selections from 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.' From 2008 to 20018, he was a Senior Lecturer at St Mary’s University, London specializing in theatre for development. From 2006 to 2016, he was a training facilitator with Theatre for a Change, a UK charity which utilizes interactive theatre to train teachers and facilitators on the topics of gender equality and sexual and reproductive health in the United Kingdom and Malawi. Matthew has degrees in Political Science & Journalism from Indiana University (1995) in the United States and is a graduate of the Goldsmiths College Masters in Theatre Directing programme (2002) in the United Kingdom. He trained with the SITI Company in New York (2000) and with Anne Bogart in Dublin, Ireland (2005). He has also trained with the Cardboard Citizens Theatre Company (2005) in London in their Forum Theatre / Joker Training Programme.

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