Acclaimed stage designer takis, celebrated creators of site specific theatre Teatro Vivo and renowned theatre company ice&fire – known for their use of performance to explore human rights issues – will join forces this September to present a brand new theatrical experience: part stage performance, part fashion show, part interactive educational exposition, and all in the name of raising public awareness of the significant role HM Government and the British Arms Trade play in #ArmingTheWorld.
We caught up with writer of #ArmingTheWorld and Artistic Director of ice&fire, Christine Bacon, to find out more.
#ArmingTheWorld is coming to London 12th- 16th September, where did the idea come from?
Every two years, the largest arms fair in the world comes to the Excel Centre in London. Buyers and sellers from across the globe come together for a week to network, make deals and profit from war and militarised borders. Delegations are invited from nations with authoritarian regimes and those the UK government identifies as being ‘of particular concern’ in regard to human rights. It is supported by the UK government (and therefore us, the taxpayer), and heavily guarded by the Metropolitan Police because of the protests against its presence (see https://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/). The likes of us are not allowed in. So, we decided to bring a taste of the arms fair to the streets of London to coincide with the week it will be taking place at the Excel Centre.
How is #ArmingTheWorld being staged?
All performances will be outdoors and free to the public. We have partnered with arts venues across London and will be performing our 30-minute ‘weapons catwalk show’ in front of their buildings. As well as presenting three shows a day, we’ll be walking around the five London boroughs we are appearing in to press the flesh, offer selfies and invite people to the show. On the last day, September 16, we’ll also be appearing in Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square. To register your interest and find out more go to www.armingtheworld.co.uk
It’s a collaboration from takis, Teatro Vivo and ice&fire, how did the collaboration come about?
We made a decision as a company a couple of years ago that we were going to change our producing model and now all productions we are developing are co-productions. We knew of Teatro Vivo’s work and we had never produced outdoor, interactive theatre before, so it was an exciting prospect to work with them. As we produce work on contemporary human rights themes, we had a few ideas brewing and after a few ‘getting to know you’ sessions, we all agreed the British arms trade was the most fertile for our collaboration. We appointed Dr. Chris Rossdale (an academic and activist) as our expert witness – and the journey began. Once we had decided on the concept of personified weapons, we gave the amazing takis a call!
#ArmingTheWorld coincides with DSEI – the world’s biggest arms – how do you make such a contentious issue entertaining?
Despite the seriousness of the subject matter and the implications of the UK being the second biggest arms dealer in the world, when we dug into the research, we found there is a great deal that is absurd, hypocritical and surreal about the trade. Perfect for satire! We didn’t want to alienate passers-by and people who perhaps had never thought about this issue before. So we focused on ensuring we provoked curiosity and bemusement. The #ArmingtheWorld outreach team (played by the wonderful trio of Mensah Bediako, Rebecca Peyton and Tom Ross-Williams) are ‘out and proud’ about working in the arms trade and love meeting the ordinary taxpayers who have invested in their industry. Then, of course, there are singing and dancing weapons, who are more than happy to boast about where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to!
How have the cast reacted to the subject matter?
The cast is utterly brilliant and they’ve thrown themselves into it and done a lot of independent research. The material has provoked loads of discussion and the cast have really embraced the satire and the comedy.
What do you hope the public reaction will be?
We hope it will make them laugh, think, gain new knowledge, and ultimately take some sort of action. We also plan for the show to have a further life at festivals, schools and anywhere we can (satirically) rally support for the great British arms trade, so get in touch! If you can’t come, we’re releasing short films every couple of days and will be documenting our journey across London. Follow us on Twitter/FB/Insta @armingtheworld