Final shortlist announced for Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award at Edinburgh Fringe

Amnesty International today (23 August) announced the final shortlist for its Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The award, given to an outstanding play carrying a human rights message, will be presented on Thursday 26 August at a breakfast reception (for invitees/media only, details below).

The shortlisted productions are:

Lockerbie: Unfinished Business, written & performed by David Benson and directed by Hannah Eidinov, is also based on a true story, this time of Jim Swire, father and justice campaigner. Performed at the Gilded Balloon Teviot, the play follows his quest for the truth after the death of his daughter in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Cora Bissett’s Roadkill, from Ankur Productions/Pachamama Productions at The Traverse Theatre. A powerful production that tells the real-life story of a girl sex-trafficked from Nigeria to Scotland. Set largely in a basement flat, it combines strong performances, animation and music to chilling effect.

Speechless, playing at the Traverse Theatre, portrays the extraordinary story of identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons. A joint production by Shared Experience and Sherman Cymru, (2008 Winners of Amnesty’s Award with Deepcut) it is adapted from Marjorie Wallace’s “The Silent Twins”. Refusing to speak to adults, the twins communicate in their own private language, their only relationship being their intense and turbulent bond with each other.

No Child, playing at Assembly on George Street. A joint production by Barrow Street Theatre and Scamp Theatre, written and Performed by Nilaja Sun and directed by Hal Brooks, the play explores the New York City public school system.

John Watson, Amnesty International's Scottish Programme Director and one of the Award judges, said:

"We’re delighted to have another very strong shortlist for the Freedom of Expression Award this year, selected from our biggest-ever field of entrants. It shows that performers are still willing to tackle difficult issues at the Fringe and that the arts haven’t lost their power the engage people with controversial subject matter.

“For Amnesty it’s important to be part of the festivals in Edinburgh. We’re here to celebrate free speech but also to defend the right to freedom of expression, wherever it is under threat.”

Entries for the Freedom of Expression Award are visited by Amnesty reviewers and a panel of professional theatre critics. A small number of productions which have entered for the award have yet to start their run, so it is possible that the shortlist could be extended. The eventual winner will be announced at a special awards event on 26 August. The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award is presented in association with The Fest magazine.

Recent winners of the Freedom of Expression Award include ‘Palace of the End’ by Judith Thompson, ‘The Container’ by Clare Bayley and ‘The Exonerated’ by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. A total of 61 productions entered for the award in 2009.

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. This year the organisation is campaigning for Zarganar, who is one of Burma’s biggest comedians as well as a writer, actor, musician, poet and film-director. He is currently serving a 35-year jail sentence for speaking out against the government. People can take action for him at www.amnesty.org.uk/zarganar .

Zarganar - whose name means ‘tweezers’ in Burmese - founded his own comedy troupe which performed satirical plays and sketches poking fun at the government. He has made numerous films, some of which have been banned in Burma. In 2006, he was excluded from the entertainment world by the authorities for an indefinite period, following an interview he gave to the BBC, criticising the regulations imposed by the junta on performances during a festival in Burma.

Amnesty will be out on Edinburgh’s streets this year asking festival-goers to take their own stand for freedom of expression, in solidarity with the people of Burma, by having their photo taken with the name of Zarganar, or one of many other Burmese prisoners that Amnesty is campaigning for, written on their hand.

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