I WISH TO DIE SINGING: VOICES FROM THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
by Neil McPherson.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Arms 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 16 May 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat, Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 35min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
www.finbooroughtheatre.co.uk (no booking fee by ’phone or online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 April.
Century-old Shock and Awe holds its grip.
On 24 April 2015, as this play by Finborough Artistic Director Neil McPherson was opening, American and British politicians arrived in Turkey one day early for the Gallipolli Centenary. Shifting that commemoration of a disastrous invasion against the Germans and their Turkish allies a day forward veiled the centenary of events which Turkey, Britain and America still refuse to call genocide.
On 24 April 1915, the Turks began a pogrom against the country’s sizeable Armenian minority, with brutality, sexual assault, seizure of assets and forced evictions – all leading to mass murder.
After a breezy introduction showing modern Armenian celebrities, the play provides an historical context from Jilly Bond’s narrator (who intermittently takes on a specific character), instant folk-dancing (not easy on a Finborough stage laid-out with designer Phil Lindley’s platforms) and the main account, in which these platforms are used.
McPherson has uncovered compelling statements from survivors of the planned, systematic murder, committed without warning against Christian Armenians. Even bribes and conversion to Islam couldn’t save lives.
Horrors unfold calmly in Tom Marshall’s slow, sustained account of his character’s experience, and with childhood innocence from Tamar Karabetyan’s evocation of a girl subjected to inexplicable sufferings and Siu-see Hung as a younger child holding her soft toy as they’re force-marched the long road to the desert, which became the equivalent of concentration camps.
Germans who helped the Turks do this went on to become Nazi officials; one became commander of Auschwitz. In Turkey and Germany people were transported in cattle-trucks, while desert and camps alike saw mass executions. Simon Yadoo shows Turkish nationalism confident of its actions then and now, even trying to collect for the Turkish government on its victims’ American insurance policies.
A final section commenting on events tries to include too much, though updating individual histories adds happier individual notes, unlike the continuing denial by some nations today. And, as Rob Mills’ video keeps adding to the story in Armenian script, and a daily update of events is provided, this production forcefully repudiates Hitler’s claim that nobody remembers the Armenians. For anyone seeing this Finborough show surely will.
Cast: Jilly Bond, Tamar Karabetyan, Sui-see Hung, Bevan Celestine, Simon Yadoo, Tom Marshall, Kate Binchy.
Director: Tommo Fowler.
Designer: Phil Lindley.
Lighting/Video: Rob Mills.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Movement: Ita O’Brien.
Costume: Ele Slade.