The reading included a performance by Tony Award winning actor John Kani who read excerpts from recently conducted interviews and selected Shakespearian texts of political prisoners on Robben Island. John Kani was joined by Atandwa Kani & Omphile Moulusi, two of the young actors from RSC & Baxter Theatre Company’s The Tempest.
The Drama department at St Mary’s University College closed for the afternoon and the stalls at the theatre were filled with students and other special guests from Richmond, the University College and from the anti-apartheid movement.
‘Afterwards John Kani participated in a moving, politicised and exciting question and answer session which can have left no-one in the audience in any doubt of the power that theatre has to communicate, keep ideals alive, provide metaphors for resistance and inspire great acts of courage and humanity.’
John Kani said, ‘The role of theatre, even today, is part of, trying to bond a nation, talk about tolerance, reconciliation, rebuilding our own lives and our own country, and our society. We see a lesson which our people could learn in this great writer called Shakespeare.
‘There is an African tradition of storytelling, which is actually a method of retaining the unwritten history that the white racist minority government did not want to write down. So our grandparents and great-grandparents handed down our history orally, and people were developed into seasoned and well-respected storytellers. And that also, the stories were part of reflecting the society itself. So theatre, coming into our continent, mixed the two genres; the genre of storytelling, and the western concept of what theatre is.’
The Robben Island Bible 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, Twickenham, amongst others.