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

Amnesty International today (22 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 25 August at a breakfast reception (for invitees/media only, details below). 
The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, now in its eighth year, is presented in association with Fest magazine. This year saw a record number of entries, with 92 productions nominated.
The shortlisted productions are:
Extreme Rambling (Walking the Wall), Mark Thomas, at The Bongo Club
Comedian and activist Mark Thomas decided to go rambling in the Middle East, walking the entire length of the Israeli Separation Barrier. This is the story of 300,000 settlers, a 750km wall, six arrests, one stoning, too much hummus and a simple question... ‘Can you ever get away from it all with a good walk?’ 
The judging panel commented:
“An incredibly accomplished piece of storytelling. The walk itself was an audacious act and a fascinating frame around which Thomas could essentially research the human costs, on both sides, of the West Bank wall.”
Release, by Icon Theatre at the Pleasance Dome
This highly physical theatre piece follows three prisoners in their first months after release as they attempt to reconnect with the people and lives they left behind. The show was created after 18 months of research and interviews with ex-offenders, probation officers and hostel managers and received development support from South Hill Park Arts Centre, Toynbee Studios, Arts Council Southeast and the Young Vic. 
The judging panel commented:
“Very strong in terms of acting, narrative and commitment to its subject, with carefully constructed characters and an astute script.”
Sold, directed by Complicite Associate Catherine Alexander, at the Pleasance Courtyard
A complex devised play about the hidden world of human trafficking based on interviews and encounters with real people. Sold is a fast paced ensemble drama composed of inter-cut filmic scenes which take us to African cocoa plantations, domestic houses and care-homes in the UK. Sold is supported by Central School of Speech and Drama, Quiconque, The Human Trafficking Foundation and Complicite Education.
The judging panel commented:
“Admirable for its intensity of research, its ambition in telling so many stories so well, and its passion to expose a form of abuse that is just not going away.”
The Wheel, directed by Vicky Featherstone, at the Traverse
Set against the backdrop of a war-torn country, The Wheel asks whether it is possible to travel through a world in conflict and remain unaffected. It follows the unimaginable journey of Beatriz and her sister Rosa as they witness more than anyone should en route.
The judging panel commented:
“Commended for its huge ambition in storytelling and acting, its sense of poetry, and its very distinctive perspective on the horror of war and its impact on Children's rights, as well as a great central performance.”
John Watson, Amnesty International's Scotland Director and one of the judges, said: 
“It’s heartening to see so many artists tackling human rights themes in their productions at the Fringe this year. It’s testament to the power of the arts to inform, challenge and inspire audiences to approach an issue from a new perspective.
“This is the first time I can recall a comedian being shortlisted for the award. It’s encouraging to see that Fringe performers across all disciplines are addressing human rights issues and that comedy audiences are being challenged as well as entertained at the Festival.
“For 50 years Amnesty International has been bringing people together to protect free speech and other human rights. This is why we’ve always had such a strong association with theatre and comedy; and it’s why Amnesty believes the Edinburgh Festival is the perfect place for us to talk about freedom of expression.”
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 2011 Edinburgh Festival campaign is for the “UAE 5”, five men detained in the United Arab Emirates and charged with “insulting officials” after calling for democracy and criticising the government.
Amnesty is asking people at the festival to text (SMS) the word “FREEDOM” followed by their name to 81222 to join a petition, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the “UAE 5”, which will be presented to the United Arab Emirates’ embassy in London ahead of their trial, now set for the end of September. Amnesty campaigners are out on the streets of Edinburgh asking people to get involved.
The five men – blogger and political commentator Ahmed Mansoor, lecturer Nasser bin Ghaith and online activists Fahad Salim Dalk, Ahmed Abdul Khaleq and Hassan Ali al-Khamis - have been detained in the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi since April. In June they were charged under article 176 of the Penal Code, which makes it a crime to publicly insult the country’s top officials. None of the men is known to have advocated any violence or change of government.
Entries for the Freedom of Expression Award are visited by Amnesty International reviewers and a panel of professional theatre critics. 
Recent winners of the Freedom of Expression Award include ‘Roadkill’ by Cora Bissett, ‘Palace of the End’ by Judith Thompson, ‘The Container’ by Clare Bayley and ‘The Exonerated’ by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. 
The winner of the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2011 will be announced at a breakfast reception, for invitees and media only, at 11am, Thursday 25 August at The Boardroom, 5 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh EH2 4DR
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