#We Are Arrested by Can Dundar. Arcola Theatre Studio 1, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 to 7 December 2019. 4****. William Russell

# We Are Arrested
By Can Dundar
Adapted by Pippa Hill & Sophie Ivatts from the English translation by Feyra Howell.
The Arcola – Studio One, 2 Ashwin Street, London E8 5DL to 7 December 2019.
Mon – Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30 pm & Wed 4 December 2.30 pm
Runs 75 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: William Russell 18 November 2019.

In August 2016 Can Dundar, then editor in chief of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison for having published a story on the Turkish intelligence service supplying arms to participants in the Syrian war. This sobering and impressively performed play is his story and in a world where authoritarian regimes proliferate and the freedom of the press is continually under attack, not least in the land of the free under the Trump regime, what it has to say is well worth heeding. Fake news is usually what governments want you to hear. A free press, even one where proprietors rule, is vital for any democracy – as for the proprietors who may shape the politics of their publication, the whole point about a democracy is that both sides of a story get told – and here they do. At least for now.
The play is staged simply. The audience sit on all sides of the theatre. In the middle of the acting area is a square, white, ornate table which can divide into three oblongs. Among the audience seats are some empty chairs coloured yellow which turn out not to be due to non sales but there for a reason, to be used by the cast when they leave the action and here and there this apparently stark setting by Charlie Cridlan holds some fascinating surprises. Can – an impressive performance by Peter Hamilton Dyer – enters from the audience, a scruffy hunched figure who could easily have stepped off the streets of Dalston. He used to have, he says, a very normal life and a job he loved. He did not realise how good it was until it was taken away and his life completely changed.
He is the editor of a newspaper with a scoop on its hands. But dare it publish the story? The Government will come down upon them. He is persuaded to leave the country on the last plane out before publication. The rage of the Government is indeed terrible to behold, but he scoop is hailed internationally and he reruns. It does not happen immediately, but the wheels of the state grind round and he is imprisoned. The story is impeccably told and Hamilton Dyer gets first rate support from Indra Ove as his wife and Jamie Cameron as their son, who both play all the other people mentioned apart from one.
Director Sophie Ivetts has kept the tension in his story rising which, given that we know he survived, is no mean feat. It is also a story worth the telling and the heeding. The freedom of the press is vital in any democracy and the rise of authoritarian regimes means it is under threat more today than for many years. This is a salutary lesson in what can happen. At the end, the law having rescued him, Can in exile thanks the president for all he has done for him and his family, for allowing him, as a result of his imprisonment, a platform on the international stage most journalists could only dream of, and looks forward to getting the assassins when they find him, although he understands from the local police they have all been apprehended to date. The RSC production started off last summer and is now at the Arcola for a further rn. As Can says in the words of Orwell, in the time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Son: Jamie Cameron.
Can: Peter Hamilton Dyer.
Wife: Indra Ove.

Director: Sophie Ivatts.
Designer: Charlie Cridlan.
Lighting Design: Claire Gerrens recreated by Laura O’Driscoll.
Sound Designer: Oliver Soames.
Music Arranger: Oguz Kaplangi.
Movement Director: Ingrid Mackinnon.
Magic Consultant: John Bulleid.
Voice Coach: Kate Godfrey.
Production photographs: Ellie Merridale (c) RSC.

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection