Friday, 20 April 2012

The Robben Island Bible will be performed as part of the London Literary Festival at London’s Southbank Centre on Tuesday 3rd July.

Matthew Hahn’s play, The Robben Island Bible, will be performed as part of the London Literary Festival’s Africa Utopia Series, which explores where the continent can lead the world, including the role of music and theatre, sustainable technologies, science and innovation.

The reading will feature  the actors Vincent Ebrahim, Cornelius Macarthy and Chuk Iwuji and be directed by Mark Griffin.

The play is based on a true story that took place at the Robben Island prison, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years, and which is a global symbol of the apartheid struggle. Political prisoner Sonny Venkathrathnam had a copy of 'The Complete Works of Shakespeare' brought into the prison and it soon became a treasure, passed between fellow prisoners who signed and dated their favourite extracts from the Works. Matthew has turned this story into a play, featuring extracts of Shakespeare intercut with testimony of the former political prisoners. Matthew commented, “It has been an honour to be associated with this South African treasure. As an artist and social activist, I have met people who have humbled me with their stories. Working on this play for so long, I am pleased to see that the names of these most gentle of men are finally getting known by the public.” Before the performance, writer Ashwan Desai will give a keynote talk based on his book, 'Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island'. Following the performance will be a Q & A with Ashwin, Matthew, members of the cast and facilitated by actress Pamela Nomvete. The performance begins at 7.45pm and prices start from £10. For more information, please visit

Trip to Durban

On Thursday 26 April, I fly to Durban with 11 students from St Mary's University College, where I teach Theatre for Development. We will be working in a variety of situations with a variety of organisations [schools, FE colleges and other young artists]. I will also have the opportunity to visit with Sonny & Theresa for the first time in almost four years. It will be an honour to see them again. I have not been to Durban since 2008 as well, so it will be nice to be back there. I can't wait to personally catch up with them about the mad and wonderful trip I have been on since our interview. I must tell him that I am humbled by the opportunities his book has opened for me. I revel in what has been happening to me & the development of the play and the shear amount of interest that his story has garnered. Finally, after working on this project in earnest since 2005, people are beginning to recognize the 'bible' and have 'heard something about it.' As with any labour of love, I am shocked that more people don't know about these most gentle of men, but through the development of the play and the development of workshops on leadership, citizenship & social change, I hope to bring about a bit of change of my own.

Upcoming Events around the Robben Island Bible

I am pleased to announce three upcoming events around Sonny Venkatrathnam's copy of 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare' and my play, The Robben Island Bible. Sonny's 'bible' will form a major part of the upcoming exhibition at the British Museum's 'Shakespeare: Staging the World'. The second is the BBC Radio Four's 'Shakespeare's Restless World' series And finally, there will be a reading of my play at the London Literary Festival on the 3rd of July. For more information please visit here. I am pleased to say that the world is finally hearing more about this incredible piece of history which has been tucked away in a cupboard in Durban for so many years. But, much more importantly, the world is also finally beginning to hear the names of other anti-apartheid freedom fighters who spent years imprisoned for their belief in democracy & social equality. The names of Venkatrathnam, Kathrada, Dingake, Daniels, Cooper and so many others who sacrificed their lives to the Struggle.