Scotland: “Deep Cut” wins 2008 Freedom of Expression Award

“Deep Cut”, the story of four young soldiers who died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut Barracks between 1995 and 2002, and of their parents’ campaign for an inquiry into the deaths, has won the 2008 Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Festival.Performed at the Traverse Theatre by Welsh company Sherman Cymru, Deep Cut follows the struggle of Des and Doreen James, as they seek answers from an unresponsive establishment as to how their daughter, Cheryl James, and three other young soldiers came to be shot while serving at Deepcut.The Award’s judging panel hailed Deep Cut as “Absolutely evoking the struggle of ordinary people against an uncaring system”, featuring “beautiful performances” and “a play that can make a difference in the world”.The Award was formally presented by Arun Gandhi, the grandson of India’s assassinated independence leader, at a ceremony in Edinburgh on Friday evening, with Des and Doreen James travelling to Edinburgh to take part.The Freedom of Expression Award is a collaboration between Amnesty International and the Big Issue in Scotland. The Award recognises Festival productions which make a significant contribution to the public's greater awareness and understanding of human rights issues.Amnesty International’s Scottish Programme Director, John Watson, said:“Deep Cut is a fantastic example of why the Freedom of Expression Award exists. This is theatre of the highest quality, but this is a play that wants to do more than entertain – it sets out to change the world.”Paul McNamee, Editor of the Big Issue in Scotland, added:“The Big Issue is delighted to give this award to Deep Cut, a play that has the potential to really make a difference. It is very important that we not only shine a light on human rights abuses in faraway countries but also look closely at our own backyard.The Big Issue is pleased to support freedom of expression, which is key tothe Fringe as well as to our mission.”Later on this year, Amnesty International in conjunction with east-London theatre company iceandfire, will announce the winner of its second annual drama and theatrical arts-based contest, the Protect The Human 2008 playwriting competition. In its second year, the Protect The Human contest invited writers to make real and relevant the impact of human rights issues in our every day lives. In keeping with Amnesty International's ethos that urges ordinary people to stand up for humanity and human rights, the competition seeks to draw on the power of the ordinary voice. So far more than 125 plays have been submitted into the contest on topics ranging from the impact of domestic violence to the human cost of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. John Watson said: “The purpose of the Protect The Human competition is in keeping with that of Amnesty’s Freedom of Expression Award. We’re encouraging people to harness theatre's ability to make real and relevant the impact of human rights on our everyday lives.”The three finalists will be announced on 20 October and will receive rehearsed readings at the Soho Theatre in December 2008. The Protect the Human award winner will be announced on 10 December - UN Human Rights Day, which this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The winning play will receive a prize of £3000 and readings at The Birmingham Rep; Theatre Royal Plymouth; West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds and a London venue on 10th December 2008. John Watson continued:“We would encourage as many people as possible to take part in the ‘Protect the Human’ competition next year, as we hope that is an enlightening journey for the playwrights themselves as they explore more about human rights.”EndsFurther information: John Watson 0131 313 7012, 07818 453070 john.watson@amnesty.org.uk Notes to Editors:1) The Freedom of Expression Award judging panel were:Neil Cooper, The HeraldLaura Kelly, The Big Issue in ScotlandStephanie Knight, researcher and writer in applied theatre and participatory artsJoyce McMillan, The ScotsmanJohn Watson, Amnesty International2) The Sherman Cymru team behind Deep Cut are:Writer - Philip Ralph Director - Mick Gordon Assistant Director - Juliane Sivers Designer - Igor Vasiljev Lighting Designer - Andrew Jones Sound Designer - Mike Furness3) The five productions shortlisted, from an original 41 entries, werea) Bully, Richard Fry- Gilded Balloon, Teviot ‘Bully’ is a fraught but funny fast-paced journey through the life of a young man battling with bullies and bigots. ‘Fry is an engrossing performer’ (Camden Gazette). ‘He’s so good it depresses me’ (Scott Capurro).b) In A Thousand Pieces, The Paper Birds- Gilded Balloon, TeviotSuitcases, puzzles, bus tickets and buttons tell the physically and visually breathtaking tale of a young Eastern European girl forced into the English sex trade. Accompanied by a live original piano score. ‘Impressive, heartfelt, wonderful!’ (Guardian)c) Deep Cut, Sherman Cymru- Traverse TheatrePrivate Cheryl James died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut Barracks. Cheryl’s parents still want answers from those responsible for her care. Crafted by Philip Ralph from original source material and firsthand testimonies. Directed by Mick Gordon.d) The Idiot Colony, Red Cape Theatre- Pleasance Dome, PotterowThree Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights locked away for their illicit loves relive faltering memories amidst the drugs and brutality of the asylum. Visually stunning blend of physicality and text based on true stories. Genuinely funny and incredibly moving.e) Motherland, Live Theatre- Underbelly, CowgateMotherland is a powerful and moving dramatisation of conversations with wives, girlfriends and mothers of military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These North East Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights share their incredibly moving and hard-hitting stories with warmth, humour and candour.3) The 2007 Freedom of Expression Award winner was The Container, a play staged in an actual container lorry, with the audience shut inside the enclosed space. The play, written by Clare Bayley and produced by Nimble Fish Productions deals with asylum and racial and religious persecution. It was praised by the judges as having a very strong impact on the audience as well as being intense, contemporary and accessible to a younger audience.