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Winner of Amnesty's prestigious freedom of expression award announced

Amnesty International today announced the winner of its prestigious Freedom of Expression Award at the Edinburgh Fringe: Bravo 22 Company’s The Two Worlds of Charlie F, written by Owen Sheers and directed by Stephen Rayne.

The award, given to an outstanding Fringe production carrying a human rights message, in association with FEST magazine, was presented by Amnesty International’s Programme Director in Scotland, Shabnum Mustapha, and FEST’s Editor, Ben Judge. This year saw a record-breaking number of entries, with 112 productions nominated.

Shabnum Mustapha said:

“This was a tremendous year for the Freedom of Expression Award with a record-breaking number of entries and an incredible range of human rights issues raised.

“Freedom of expression has always been at the heart of what we do. It is why we’ve always worked so closely with artists and performers and it's why we’re delighted to be giving this award today. The award recognises that theatre has an unrivalled power to challenge, educate and inspire. Today’s winner illustrates that superbly.”

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

Speaking on behalf of the judges, Neil Cooper said:

"The importance of The Two Worlds of Charlie F can't be understated, both as a work of art, and for the things it deals with.

"The issue of what happens to soldiers who have returned from tours of duty in war-zones damaged in some way, only to be thrown onto the scrap-heap by the very people they've served, is an all too familiar one.

“By bringing together real people's stories, performed by former soldiers who know first-hand how a lack of support can damage individuals Owen Sheers, Stephen Rayne and the performers of Bravo 22 Company, have made a theatrically inventive compendium of real-life experience crafted into a very special piece of work.

"Arriving at a time when malevolent forces are attempting to hi-jack the plight of veteran squaddies for their own nefarious ends, The Two Worlds of Charlie F gives voice to a neglected sector of society that brings home their plight in a fearless, brave and thoroughly life-affirming manner that makes it a worthy winner on a very strong short list."

Writer of The Two Worlds of Charlie F, Owen Sheers, said:

“I'm incredibly grateful the play has won the Amnesty award. Not only is it testament to the commitment of the cast and production team, but it is also an award that goes to the heart of the play's motivation - to give voice to those whose stories are unheard by heightening and lending resonance to those stories through the medium of theatre.

Charlie F was created through many of the core values that Amnesty also stands for, of bearing witness and speaking truth to power so that along with 'never forget' we might also remember, and therefore think twice before engaging in conflict as a solution to difference.

“The award will be a huge boost to our hopes for the future life of Charlie F as a tool for recovery, and for my own aspirations to create a foundation that will enable plays about conflict, performed by those wounded in conflict, to be created in other countries around the world.”

The other shortlisted productions were: Why Do You Stand There In The Rain? by Pepperdine University at C Venues; Mies Julie by Baxter Theatre Centre, South African State Theatre and Assembly at the Assemble Hall; All That is Wrong by Ontroerend Goed, Laika, Richard Jordan Productions and the Drum Theatre Plymouth at The Traverse Theatre; The Agony & Ecstasy of Steve Jobs by Mike Daisey at The Gilded Balloon; and Theatre Uncut at The Traverse Theatre.

The Bravo 22 Company was set up by The Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust and The Royal British Legion in partnership with the Defence Recovery Capability to the aid recovery of wounded, injured and sick Service personnel using a theatrical learning environment.

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 2012 Edinburgh Festival campaign is for Burmese human rights defender and political activist, U Myint Aye. Amnesty is asking people at the festival to sign a petition calling for the immediate release of U Myint Aye and all remaining prisoners of conscience in Burma. 

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