For the first time ever, some of the world’s most influential theatres are joining together to read an extract of a new play about Aung San Suu Kyi to celebrate her birthday on June 19th. Venues include the National Theatre and RADA in London, and PARC in Japan. Such support reminds the people of the world and the military junta of Burma that through theatre Suu’s message of a democratic Burma can reach hearts and minds all over the world. Suu Kyi is the symbol of hope for the millions of people in Burma and she is the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate political prisoner and is known as the ‘Mandela’ of Burma. She is the leader of Burma’s democracy movement and is to spend her 62nd birthday in isolation under the rule of the military junta, this is the 11th birthday she has endured while under house arrest, her term of which was extended indefinitely last month. The United Nations condemned her detention as illegal only two weeks ago.
The Lady of Burma, written and directed by Richard Shannon, will also be presented at the House of Commons on June 19th in a landmark reading by actress Liana Mau Tan Gould, who performed at the Old Vic Theatre for the gala performance with Annie Lennox in November 2006. So far, theatres in Norway, India, Italy, Ireland, Jamaica, U.S.A, Australia, Japan, England, Wales, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Zimbabwe and Cyprus to name a few are all holding a reading to remember Suu on her birthday.
International actor Kabir Bedi, known for his ground breaking roles from Bollywood to Hollywood, is joining up with Rt Hon Ian McCartney MP – Foreign Office Minister responsible for Burma, William Hague MP– Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary and Michael Moore MP – Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary on June 19th 2007 at the House of Commons. Kabir Bedi, known as ‘the voice’ in Bollywood, will read a special extract about Aung San Suu Kyi. He is one of the most famous international actors to have come out of India and joins us in London after his spell in Yorkshire with the IIFAs. In the James Bond film ‘Octopussy’ he played Gobinda, the villain who battled Roger Moore. In ‘Ashanti’ he stars with Michael Caine. His career spans 3 decades in 3 continents in film, television and theatre. Most recently in the UK he starred in London’s West End musical adaptation of M.M. Kayes “The Far Pavillions”. With over 60 Bollywood movies to his name and the success of the record breaking Italian-German-French television series ‘Sandokan’ where he played the title hero as a romantic freedom fighting pirate, The Burma Campaign UK are delighted to have his support in the struggle for democracy in Burma.
Kabir Bedi has a family legacy of remarkable commendation – his mother, an English woman from Derbyshire, was the first western woman to be ordained as a Buddhist nun, who then went on to become one of Mahatma Gandhi’s hand picked followers during India’s struggle for independence. Kabir spent many years in Burma and is fully supportive of the campaign to see the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Kabir Bedi said “I have known Burma since I was a child and care deeply about it. I’m attending this event to show my support for the restoration of democracy in Burma and for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Suu Kyi has called for people around the world to join the struggle for freedom in Burma and now the Burma Campaign UK and Kabir Bedi call for people around the world to remember Suu Kyi on her special day. The Lady of Burma is not just a story of a political figure but that of a wife and mother. Suu Kyi was married to an Englishman called Michael Aris, who died while she was under house arrest in 1999. In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, she has won the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament and the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Burma Campaign UK is part of a global movement to promote democracy and human rights in Burma.
The ‘Lady of Burma’ will premiere at the Edinburgh fringe festival this summer, presented by the Burma Campaign UK and producer Louise Chantal.
Notes to Editors
Aung San Suu Kyi isn’t allowed to see her two sons, grandchildren, family, friends or colleagues as all visitors are banned. Her phone line is cut and her post is intercepted. In 1999 Suu Kyi’s husband, Michael Aris, died of cancer – the Burmese authorities refusing her a visit from him prior to his death. Many of her supporters have been jailed or killed, notably in the Depayin massacre of May 2003, when up to a hundred were beaten to death by a regime militia.
*Aung San Suu Kyi was held under house arrest from 1989-1995, and again from 2000-2002. She was again arrested in May 2003 after the Depayin massacre. She is currently under house arrest in Rangoon. Aung San Suu Kyi’s message is a simple one – that only by “fighting fear can you truly be free” – a message Burma’s military fears and aims to silence.
* Burma is ruled by one of the most brutal and corrupt regimes in the world responsible for the widespread use of forced labour. Over 1 million people have been forced from their homes since 1988. There are currently at least 1100 political prisoners in Burma, many of whom are routinely tortured, and as many as 70,000 child soldiers – more than any other country in the world. Rape is used as a weapon of war against ethnic women and children. Nearly half the government budget is spent on the military and just 19p per person per year on health. One in ten children die before their fifth birthday.
*‘She is my pin-up! She inspires me with her gentle determination…. Men, armed to the teeth, are running scared of her. When those men are no more than the flotsam and jetsam of history her name will be emblazoned in letters of gold. She has already won, and they know they have lost. I love her, and I am in awe of her.’ Archbishop Desmond Tutu
* The lady of Burma play can be seen in full at the Edinburgh Festival 2007 at Assembly @ St George’s West, 58 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh from the 3-27 August at 16.45 daily
Box office: 0131 623 3030
Venues and theatre companies organising readings on 19th June 2007 worldwide include:
The Athenaeum Centre (UK)
Contact: Tony Jackson 07968028694
Barrow Street Theatre
Compagnia del teatro Nuovo, Naples Italy
Casa Asia (Spain)
Gekidan Kaitaisha, Japan
Hamilton Dramaturgy (USA)
Contact: Laura Cameron Lewis firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Morgan, MP (Wales)
Contact: Paul Johnston, email@example.com
National Theatre, London
contact: Lucinda Morrison: firstname.lastname@example.org
Orisha Tales Repetory Radio Theatre Company (USA)
New York City
Contact: David Wright, email@example.com
The Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights (Norway)
Contact: Hilde Salvesen, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Oxford Playhouse
Promotional Options (Jamaica)
Kingston 10, Jamaica W.I.
Contact: David Smith
Ranga Shankara – Bangalore, India
contact: Shiva Pathak
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (UK)
Riverside Studios (UK)
Shaftesbury Theatre (UK)
Soho Theatre (UK)
Stranmillis University College (N. Ireland)
Belfast, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland
St. Hugh’s College (UK), Oxford
Mold, North Wales
Wizard Oil Productions (USA)
New York City
For more information, contact Suki Dusanj, Events Manager at Burma Campaign UK, on 020 7324 4716