The Oscars? Who needs em?
On Friday 22nd (sorry for the delay) we announced the winner of the 2008 Freedom of Expression Award.
The Award exists "to reward an Edinburgh Festival company whose performance makes a significant contribution to the public's greater awareness and understanding of human rights issues". Essentially any production which addresses human rights themes can enter – and this year a record 41 of them did, suggesting that discussion of serious issues is alive and well at the Fringe.
Once they have been accepted as relevant to the Award, the judging process is all about the quality of the production. So Amnesty reviewers go and see them all, with a checklist to consider acting, set, production, lighting, script and so forth. These reviewers are tasked with highlighting any outstanding productions to be considered for the shortlist, which is then seen by a panel of professional theatre critics.
This year four of our productions didn’t start until the third, and final, week of the Fringe so getting them all seen, a shortlist produced and handed over to the professional panel for viewing and making a final decision was a little tense at times.
But, as ever, the Award ceremony made it all worthwhile.
Performed at the Traverse Theatre (which also hosted the 2004 winner), 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 handed over by Arun Gandhi, the grandson of India’s assasinated independence leader, at a lovely bash in delightful surroundings. What really topped it off though, was the fact that we were able to arrange for Des and Doreen James themselves to travel to Edinburgh for the ceremony.
As our press announcement 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."
One of the most inspiring things I come across in Amnesty is ordinary people (self-professed ordinary people who are determined to remain so) who nevertheless do extraordinary things. Des and Doreen James have fought a long battle against the system for what they feel is simple justice and accountability. Good luck to them, I say.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.