'Roadkill' wins Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award at Edinburgh Festival

Amnesty International today (26 August) announced that Cora Bissett’s Roadkill, from Ankur Productions/Pachamama Productions for The Traverse Theatre, is the winner of the 2010 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The award, given to an outstanding play carrying a human rights message, was presented at a reception event in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award is presented in association with The Fest magazine.

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

“The judges felt that Roadkill did something that great theatre often does - shake people up. It’s a worthy winner of the award and I defy anyone to see the play and not want to do something afterwards to stop sex trafficking.

“The award encourages Fringe performers to tackle human rights issues and all of the shortlisted plays show that this can lead to some fantastic theatre. We know that the arts have a real power to engage people with difficult topics and this year’s winner does that in spades.”

Joyce McMillan, theatre critic for The Scotsman and Award judge, said:

“On a Fringe not short of shows that try to explore or exploit the theme of sex-trafficking, this is the one that is beautiful, brilliant and powerful enough to break into people's hearts; and perhaps even to change their minds."

Writer and Director of Roadkill, Cora Bissett, said:

“For the director of a play about a horrific abuse of someone’s human rights, having your work acknowledged by Amnesty International means an awful lot.  

“I’ve wanted to use theatre to explore the issue of sex trafficking for some time. I hope that Roadkill really underlines that this is happening in our own neighbourhoods and we all have a responsibility to do something about it.”

The other shortlisted productions were:

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.

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.

Entries for the Freedom of Expression Award were visited by Amnesty reviewers and a panel of professional theatre critics.

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 record number of 64 productions entered for the award this year.

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, one of Burma’s best-known 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. Campaigners are asking festival-goers to have their photo taken with the name of Zarganar, or one of many other Burmese prisoners that Amnesty is campaigning for, written on their hand. These pictures will be presented to the Burmese authorities to help put pressure on them to respect human rights.

Find out more at www.amnesty.org.uk/edfest

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