Monday, 26 July 2010

Recent Research - Matthew Hahn, Theatre for Development Lecturer

What can I do differently?
Theatre for a Change’s Innovative Strategies to Changing Behaviour & Fighting HIV / Aids in Africa

Matthew Hahn presented a paper at the New York University Forum in Citizenship and Applied Theatre in April 2010.

His research is focused on the work of the charity Theatre for a Change which uses innovative theatre strategies to stimulate dialogue, interaction and behaviour change in Malawi. Theatre for a Change adapts its practice from Augusto Boal’s ‘Forum Theatre’ into ‘Touch Tag Theatre.’

When Theatre for a Change recognized that the Protagonists in their Forum Plays were predominantly female, re-enforcing the negative stereotype of women as victims within that community, they adapted Forum Theatre. They developed the concept of Forum’s ‘win / loss’ to explore the issues of ‘equality,’ where any character can be replaced, as opposed to Forum’s strict rule of only replacing the Protagonist. This was done in order to find a balance in the relationship represented on stage.

The charity’s aim is to change attitudes towards gender equality and HIV/Aids in Malawi. Their long term goal is to reduce the risk of infection amongst the country’s most vulnerable groups.

The Robben Island Bible
Following on from two St. Mary’s University College supported research trips to South Africa in the last 18 months, Matthew Hahn is now writing the play based in the primary interviews conducted in November 2008 and the script development phase in February 2010.
In December 2010, he will present a reading of this play to the public. The play combines the interviews (transcripts & video recordings), the chosen Shakespearian texts & the development phrase to script the multiple stories that surround Sonny’s smuggled copy of the ‘Complete Works.’

Background to the play:
Sonny Venkatrathnam was a South African political prisoner held on Robben Island in the 1970’s. Venkatrathnam smuggled his copy of the ‘Complete Works’ into the prison by persuading his warders that it was a religious Hindu ‘Bible.’ He then surreptitiously passed this ‘bible’ 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, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada 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 and profound. The selection of text provides fascinating insight into the minds, thinking and soul of those political prisoners who fought for the transformation of South Africa. It also speaks to the power of Shakespeare’s resonance with the human spirit regardless of place or time.