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Theatre Universal truths in an era of fake news

A play on the arbitrary detention of a journalist resonates beyond its Turkish context, says MAYER WAKEFIELD


Arcola Theatre, London

THE FACT that a group of “Free Julian Assange” campaigners was standing outside the Arcola Theatre on a chilly press night served to underline the relevance of the theatre's first collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

#WeAreArrested is the story of  the “truly Kafkaesque” detention of newspaper editor Can Dundar (Peter Hamilton Dyer) at the behest of the Turkish government.

Strangely, in Pippa Hill and Sophie Ivatts's adaptation, the only direct mention of the country or its government is the Turkish coffee Dundar imagines himself drinking whilst under lock and key, and while the aim to bring a universal feel to proceedings by stripping out distinctive details is successfully realised, the downside is that the story can only really operate on surface level.

We witness a first-person account of how a regime drunk on power disregards the usual rules with little redress, a sadly familiar tale, and Hill and Ivatts (who also directs) translate it onto the stage with speedy efficiency and the occasional flourish.

Testament to the power of the imagination and the solidarity of his peers, those flourishes provide the best moments. The scene in which Dundar's dull surroundings inspire a revolt against a ban on colour by extracting different hues from the few items around him while his friends send him brightly coloured garments to wear is a stirring example.

In the lead role, Hamilton Dyer manages to find an engaging equilibrium between the vast range of emotions he rapidly travels through in just under 75 minutes. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast (Jamie Cameron and Indra Ove) can only make fleeting impressions in difficult multi-roles.

Charlie Cridlan’s set, three white tables inscribed with an array of words such as “stories” and “lies” combine to great effect with Clare Gerrens shadowy lighting design, complemented by a striking sound design from Oliver Soames which makes the transition between locations seamless.

With a Twitter hashtag for a title, it is ironic that this evening stands out for its human ingenuity, in what is a relevant, well-realised and thought-provoking production.

Runs until December 7, box office:


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