Tara Theatre in London has dedicated a three-week run of Eastern Star, a play about freedom of expression in Myanmar to the two Reuters journalists, U Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, given seven-year prison sentences in Yangon, for ‘violating a state secrets act’. This news comes shortly after the 30th anniversary of the 1988 student uprising against the military dictatorship in Burma (now Myanmar) on 8th August.
Jatinder Verma, Artistic Director of Tara Arts said “When we planned this run, we had no idea that Eastern Star would become so painfully current. The sentences handed down to these two men are truly shocking even by the standards of justice we have come to expect in Myanmar today. We urge for them to be released immediately.”
A petition book, calling on the authorities in Myanmar to release U Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo will be available for theatre goers and members of the public to sign. At the end of the three-week run, which begins on 11 September Jatinder Verma will present the petition to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Eastern Star is based on the true story of the relationship between a BBC World Service journalist, Christopher Gunness and a Burmese human rights lawyer, U Nay Min, with the latter acting as the ‘architect’ of the revolution, and the former serving as its ‘voice’.
After the revolution was brutally suppressed Chris went on to comparative fame and fortune (he is currently director of communications with UN in the Middle East) while U Nay Min was arrested, imprisoned for 16 years and tortured. Set around their fraught and painful reunion 25 years after the revolution, Eastern Star examines the responsibility of global news corporations towards their sources. The piece shines a light on what happens when a foreign journalist walks away from the subject of their story, and addresses the tension between the journalist and the activist in a dictatorial society.
Eastern Star is written and directed by Guy Slater, who was struck by Chris’ story after hearing him speak at a fund-raising event, and with his permission set about adapting this fascinating story for the stage. The production stars David Yip (The Chinese Detective), Michael Lumsden (The Archers), Julie Cheung-Inhin and Patrick Pearson.
Eastern Star is at Tara Theatre 11th – 29th September 2018.