Sunday, 24 April 2016

From the South African Sunday Times - 'A Tempest in a teapot over the fate of the 'Robben Island Bible.'

A very special performance of The Robben Island Shakespeare on Robben Island on 23 April 2016

What an honour to have Eddie Daniels and, the man of the day, Sonny Venkatrathnam, on Robben Island for a performance of the play, The Robben Island Shakespeare.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Lovely News Package on Sonny at a recent performance of RIB at the Robben Island Museum

Before Surinarayan (or, Sonny) Venkatrathnam was released from Robben Island in 1977 he asked around 30 fellow inmates to sign the book he called his Bible.  In fact, the text was the Collected Works of William Shakespeare, which Venkatrathnam concealed as a holy book.  Once the tome had been passed around, it was annotated with signatures for political heavyweights like Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada.  Each fellow had signed their name and the date alongside a favourite extract of the Bard's writing.  

For the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare's death (said to be on 23  April 1616) Venkatrathnam treturned to Robben Island with the book. He and fellow inmate Eddie Daniels participated in a special programme recognizing the Bard's work and the special connection between Shakespeare and the lives on inmates at Robben Island prison.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Ian McKellen discusses the Robben Island Bible during his 'Shakespeare on Stage, Screen and Elsewhere with Ian McKellen'

Acting legend Ian McKellen discusses the Robben Island Bible [around minute 28] during a long ranging interview about his impressive range of Shakespearean performances.

Since playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night at 12 years old, Ian McKellen has acted in more than half of Shakespeare’s canon on stages worldwide and screens large and small.

For the Royal Shakespeare Company he was Toby Belch, Macbeth, Leontes, Romeo, King Lear and Iago; for the National Theatre he was Coriolanus, Richard III, Kent in King Lear and Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing; and on TV he starred as Richard II, Hamlet, Macbeth, Iago and most recently King Lear himself.

Acting Shakespeare, McKellen’s award-winning solo show, has been seen on stages throughout the world. Here he shares his unique insights into the problems and joys of interpreting Shakespeare for the theatre, television, radio and cinema.

[Shakespeare Lives @]

Friday, 11 March 2016

Bloomsbury Methuen to publish The Robben Island Shakespeare (formerly known as The Robben Island Bible).

It has just been confirmed that my play, The Robben Island Shakespeare, is to be published by Bloomsbury Methuen in March 2017.  Book launch details will follow in due course.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Robben Island Bible Reading for the 67th Annual Shakespeare Festival at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 405 W 55th St, New York, New York 10019

The Robben Island Bible, a unique theatrical piece by Matthew Hahn that speaks to the resilience of human spirit as well as the timelessness and resonance of Shakespeare, had its New York premiere as part of Hofstra University’s 67th Annual Shakespeare Festival on Monday, February 22, at 7:00pm directed by A. Dean Irby.
Robben Island Bible
Robben Island Bible
Hahn’s play centers on Sonny Venkatratham, who was imprisoned on Robben Island from 1972-1978. During a time when inmates were briefly permitted to have a book, other than a religious text with them, Venkatratham asked his wife to send The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Venkatratham then passed the book to a number of his fellow political prisoners in the single cells. Each of them marked his favorite passage in the Complete Works and signed it with the date. Ultimately, the volume held 32 signatures, including those of Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada and Mac Maharaj, all luminaries in the struggle for a democratic South Africa.
The signed passages provide fascinating insight into the minds of those political prisoners who fought for the transformation of South Africa. Julius CaesarHamlet and The Tempest emerged as the most popular texts, focusing on issues such as loyalty, betrayal and assassination. The Robben Island Bible has been performed in venues around the globe, most recently in August 2015 in Soweto at an Ethical Leadership Workshop, and in November 2015 in the UK to help launch a Global Shakespeare master’s program at Warwick College.
Matthew Hahn
Matthew Hahn
Mr. Hahn was a visiting professor in Hofstra’s Department of Drama and Dance for the week of February 22, to guest speak in Hofstra classes, attend rehearsals and the performances of The Robben Island Bible and the Hofstra Shakespeare Festival and participate in the University’s Civil Rights DayHe currently serves as a theater director, drama lecturer and workshop leader in the UK and Africa. He is a senior lecturer at St. Mary’s University where he teaches on the Theatre for Development modules. He also works for Theatre for a Change in Malawi and has directed several productions in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Hofstra University’s Shakespeare Festival began in 1950, and throughout its long history the Festival has presented a varied selection of the plays of William Shakespeare, lesser-known short plays from the period, musicales, and scenes from Shakespeare’s plays performed by high school groups from the greater New York area. This year’s main production is As You Like It, February 18-28, and there will be a one-hour adaptation of Hamlet, directed by Jean Dobie Giebel, The Play’s the Thing, on February 25 and 27.