Amnesty announces Freedom of Expression Award winner

Amnesty International this evening declared that 2013 had been a “phenomenal year for theatre about human rights at the Fringe” as the organisation announced the winner of its prestigious annual Freedom of Expression Award.

The winning play is Nirbhaya a powerful production about the infamous Delhi rape case that shocked the world. Assembly, Riverside Studios, and Poorna Jagannathan’s Nirbhaya (Hindi for "fearless one") was directed by Yaël Farber, produced by Poorna Jagannathan and performed by Japjit Kaur, Ankur Vikal and the ensemble.

For the first time, the judges also awarded a Highly Commended award to another production, Our Glass House, a site-specific show about domestic abuse. The highly commended play is a Common Wealth Theatre production, in association with Summerhall, written by Aisha Zia, performed by the Common Wealth Ensemble, directed and produced by Evie Manning, and co-created by Evie Manning and Rhiannon White.

The award, given to an outstanding Fringe production carrying a human rights message, was presented at a ceremony in the City Arts Centre in Edinburgh this evening (Friday 23 August).

Mark Bevan, Amnesty International's Scotland Programme Director, said:

“It’s been a phenomenal year for theatre about human rights at the Fringe.  

“We were looking for productions which are truly inspiring and have the power to inform and challenge the audience. The directors, writers, performers and producers didn’t disappoint.

“I was delighted to see so many abuses highlighted in a way that only powerful art really can – causing the audience to keep thinking about themes for days and weeks afterwards.

“The talent in the shortlist is testament to this year’s vibrant Fringe programme. We have a worthy winner in Nirbhaya.”

Judging the award were: Joyce McMillan of the Scotsman, Neil Cooper of the Herald, Lyn Gardner of The Guardian, Joe Spurgeon of FEST Magazine and Stephanie Knight; an independent artist-researcher.

Of the winning production, Joyce McMillan, speaking on behalf of the judges, said:

“Nirbhaya was such a powerful performance. The feeling of the women of this huge nation beginning to rouse themselves at last against routine sexual abuse and violence – it is hard to overstate its importance.  Nirbhaya really is giving a voice to people and experiences that have been voiceless for a thousand years. We are happy to be able to recognise a very strong runner-up with the Highly Commended award for Our Glass House, which reflects on the same issues in a western context.”

The other shortlisted productions were: Kyle Bissett Productions’ Ban This Filth!, written and performed by Alan Bissett, produced by Hannah Putsey, and directed by Sacha Kyle. Scary Biscuits’ Brace: Fionnuala, written and performed by Donal O’Kelly and directed by Sorcha Fox. Gate Theatre’s Grounded, written by George Brant, directed by Christopher Haydon, and performed by Lucy Ellinson. Iron-Oxide’s HeLa, written and performed by Adura Onashile and directed by Graham Eatough. National Theatre Wales’ The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning, written by Tim Price and directed by John E McGrath.

Amnesty’s involvement with the world’s largest arts festival is based on the celebration of freedom of expression and fighting for the rights of people whose free speech is denied.

Amnesty’s 2013 Edinburgh Festival campaign is for Prageeth Eknaligoda, a Sri Lankan journalist, cartoonist and political analyst, who has been missing since he left work on the evening of 24 January 2010, just days before the last presidential election in Sri Lanka. Amnesty is asking people at the festival to sign a petition calling for the Sri Lankan Government to investigate his disappearance. For more information go to: www.amnesty.org.uk/edfest

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