Friday, 13 February 2009

John Kani to participate in a staged reading of the play, 'The Robben Island Bible'

St. Mary’s University College in association with the Richmond Theatre & the Royal Shakespeare Company will be hosting a staged reading of excerpts from the new play, The Robben Island Bible on the 24th of March at 3.00pm read by John Kani, Tony Award winning actor.

For more information and to book tickets for this free event, please call Matthew on 0208 240 4059.

This play is based on South African Sonny Venkatratham’s copy of ‘Complete Works of William Shakespeare’. A political prisoner on Robben Island during the 1970s, Venkatratham smuggled his copy of the ‘Complete Works’ into the prison by persuading his warders that it was a religious Hindu text. He then surreptitiously passed the book to a number of his fellow political prisoners in the single cells. Each of them marked his favourite passage in the ‘Complete Works’ and signed it with the date. It contains thirty-two signatures, including those of Walter Sisulu, Neville Alexander, Billy Nair, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Masondo, and Mac Maharaj, all luminaries in the struggle for a democratic South Africa.

These men signed passages within the text which they found particularly moving / meaningful / profound. The selection of texts provides fascinating insight into the minds, thinking and soul of prisoners at that time.

Ahmed Kathrada, Michael Dingake, Saths Cooper, Theo Cholo, Kwede Mkalipi, Sonny Venkatrathnam & Andrew Mlangeni, all former political prisoners on Robben Island & signatories were interviewed as part of the first phase of this research project in October & November 2008.

The second phase of the project will begin in the summer of 2009, when we will be working with actors from the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa to devise a play based on the interviews & chosen Shakespearian texts.

The project has gained the support of many prominent South Africans and international organisations including the British High Commissioner to South Africa, Paul Boateng, South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ms Lindiwe Mabuza, Tony Award winning actor Dr. John Kani, the British Council in South Africa and St. Mary’s University College in London amongst others.

With experiences of working in the theatre and development fields in the UK, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa and United States, we share a great passion for ensuring access to the performing arts through social change.

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