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Review: #We Are Arrested, at Arcola Theatre

28 November, 2019 — By Clair Chapwell

Peter Hamilton Dyer in #We Are Arrested. Photo: Ellie Merridale

GEORGE Orwell got it right: “In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

This stunning play is the first co-production between the Arcola Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. It’s adapted from a book by Can Dündar, editor of a Turkish newspaper arrested for publishing information about state intelligence sending weapons into Syria.

A virtual monologue broken up with many scenes, it’s adapted for the stage by Pippa Hill and Sophie Ivatts who also directs, guiding us skilfully through mood shifting scenes: passionate, gentle, cold, with actors Jamie Cameron and Indra Ové who shift and change through a myriad of people on Can’s terrifying journey.

But the evening belongs to Can (Peter Hamilton Dyer). He tells us at the beginning of the show “I used to have a normal life. I lived with my wife. And my son. And my dog, Cinnamon.”

He makes a huge decision that changes his life utterly and he takes us with him on his journey. He takes brave decisions, tells the truth and we follow him through the consequence of his actions and his personal fight against the isolation and degradation of being imprisoned for an indeterminate amount of time.

Why, at this point, do we not leave the theatre and go home on a wet November evening and watch Strictly on catch-up? Because this play is about hope and how huge support, local and international, meant his case remained high profile. He is a survivor and he takes us on that journey too.

Ultimately, the play is about the triumph of the human spirit, both his and his many supporters and those who kept the case high in the public consciousness, not unlike the four-year, non-stop anti-apartheid demonstrations outside the South Africa House in Trafalgar Square in the late 80s.

In the current world of fake news where nothing is real and nothing is worth believing in, I left the Arcola for the first time in many years remembering the power of collective action.

Until December 7
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