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Cast of Eastern Star meet Christopher Gunness, L R Patrick Pearson, David Yip, Christopher Gunness, Michael Lumsden and Julie Cheung Inhin.- Photo credit Daniel Slater

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’.

The 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 theatregoers 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.

Based on a true story Eastern Star tells 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, director of communications with UN in the Middle East, went on to comparative fame and fortune. U Nay Min, on the other hand, was arrested, imprisoned for 16 years and tortured.

Christopher Gunness said:

“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.” 

Written and directed by Guy Slater, Eastern Star is set around their fraught and painful reunion 25 years after the revolution.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.

“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. Its been a challenge and a delight to look at the story from both – very complex and painful- perspectives” explains Guy Slater.

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.

Jatinder Verma adds:

“I call on all people of conscience to raise their voices in support of U Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They are guilty of nothing but the crime of writing. Their sentences should not be allowed to stand.”

The production stars David Yip (The Chinese Detective), Michael Lumsden (The Archers)Julie Cheung-Inhin and Patrick Pearson.

Eastern Star

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 Tin Htar Swe (Former Head of Burmese Service of BBC), Martin Smith (Author of ‘Burma: Insurgency’ and ‘the Politics of Ethnicity Groups in Burma: Development, Democracy and Human Rights’) and Michael Marrett-Crosby (Trustee and CEO of charities working in Myanmar, focusing on Rakhine State)