Eastern Star by Guy Slater tells the story of the tortuous relationship between two men, during the Myanmar uprising of 1988, raising the question “Who writes history – the activist or the journalist?
Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the 1988 student uprising against the military dictatorship in Burma (now Myanmar) on 8th August, Guy Slater in association with Tara Arts will present the World Premiere production of Eastern Star, to be performed at Tara Theatre from 11th – 29th September.
The production stars David Yip (The Chinese Detective) and Michael Lumsden (The Archers), with Julie Cheung-Inhin and Patrick Pearson.
David Yip plays U Nay Min, the architect of the revolution. David is best known for playing the title role in The Chinese Detective (BBC).
Michael Lumsden plays Christopher Gunness. Michael is best known for his role as Ambridge vet Alistair Lloyd in The Archers (BBC Radio 4).
Julie Cheung-Inhin plays U Nay Min’s niece. Julie is a British-born East Asian actor.
Patrick Pearson plays Christopher’s partner, Jake Hansard. His theatre credits include The Madness of George III (National Theatre), Peter Nichols’ A Piece of my Mind (Apollo), The Mousetrap (St Martin’s).
Eastern Star is based on the real-life relationship between a BBC World Service journalist, Christopher Gunness and a Burmese human rights lawyer, U Nay Mi. U Nay Mi was the ‘architect’ of the revolution, with Christopher Gunness serving as its ‘voice’.
After the revolution was brutally suppressed, U Nay Min would spend the next 16 years in prison being tortured. In contrast, Gunness went on to comparative fame and fortune, now currently director of communications with UN in the Middle East.
The play is set 25 years after the revolution, with the two men meeting again in a fraught and painful reunion. Eastern Star Shines a light on what happens when a journalist walks away from the subject of their story, with the play questioning who writes history – the activist or the journalist?
To mark the anniversary, the cast met for lunch with Christopher Gunness (the journalist on whom the true story is based) at a Burmese restaurant, The Mandalay Golden Myanmar, where they were able to talk to Christopher about his experiences during the student uprising
Christopher Gunness comments:
“It’s surreal to have started a revolution by mistake without even realising it, but as a cub reporter at the BBC that’s just what I did. I never imagined that my reporting would play a part in shaping the fate of a nation and writing the first draft of its history. And with the Rohingya crisis deepening, that history is still being written. The true hero of this story is U Nay Min, and I am delighted that this story is being brought to the stage on this momentous anniversary.”
Examining the responsibility of global news corporations towards their sources, it also addresses the theme of news manipulation and fake news.
Guy Slater, the writer and director of Eastern Star has had a long and successful career in theatre and television. He ran the Horseshoe Theatre Company, mainly operating out of the Haymarket Theatre, for seven years. He has directed plays in many parts of the world – London, California, Edinburgh, New York and India.
He heard Gunness speaking at a fund-raising event and was struck by his story. With Gunness’ permission, he decided to adapt the story for the stage.
“Christopher and U May Min’s story is a moving and resonant one. I am delighted to be bringing it to the stage for the 30th anniversary of the 1988 student uprising. People rarely stop to think about the relationship between a reporter and his/her subject. It’s been a challenge and a delight to look at the story from both – very complex and painful- perspectives” said Slater.
Casting will be announced in due course.
Box office: 020 8333 4457
Venue: Tara Theatre
Dates: 11 – 29 Sept 2018
Press night: Wednesday 12th September, 7.30pm
Performances: Tues 11 to Sat 29 Sept, 7.30pm, Matinees Sat 22 & 29 Sept 3.30pm; and Thurs 27 Sept 3.30pm
Prices: £13.50 (concessions) and £17.50 (standard)
Booking: www.tara-arts.com/ 020 8333 4457
POST SHOW DISCUSSIONS
Wednesday 19 September: The Reporter & The Activist with Lyse Doucet (BBC Chief International Correspondent) and Christopher Gunness
Wednesday 26 September: Myanmar Today: How did the student uprising of 1988 change history with Martin Smith (Project Burma)