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Gitmo Horrors on London Theater

Published: 03/02/2012 01:19:21 AM GMT
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LONDON - Bringing detainees' experiences at the infamous Guantanamo Bay to stage, a London theater opens on Tuesday, January 31, a new play focusing on (more)

LONDON - Bringing detainees' experiences at the infamous Guantanamo Bay to stage, a London theater opens on Tuesday, January 31, a new play focusing on the US detention camp and its impact on the lives of many.“Stratford wanted to start making emotionally challenging theatre for a teenage audience and we are in east London with a lot of Asian resonance,” director Dominic Hingorani told Reuters.

“It (Guantanamo Bay) obviously has a lot of resonance with people here.”

The play, Guantanamo Boy, is based on a 2009 novel of the same name by Anna Perera.

It opens on Tuesday at Stratford Circus, located in an area of the capital with a large Muslim population, and ends on February 11.

The adaptation of Perera's novel looked at Guantanamo through the eyes of a British Muslim teenager who is detained during a family visit to Pakistan over suspicion of being a terrorist.

Although fictional, the book was inspired by the incarceration of teenagers like Mohammed El Gharani, a Chadian citizen released without charge in 2009 after more than seven years in captivity, including at Guantanamo.

His lawyers said he was 14 when he was seized in Pakistan in 2001 before being turned over to the US military, although the Pentagon disputed his age.

“We are reimagining this experience through a teenagers' eyes,” Hingorani told Reuters.

“It was very important to keep an eye on the fact that we are taking the audience with us in order that they can engage.”

Presenting the play, Hingorani hopes to bring the terrible experiences at the infamous detention camp to London audience.

“I am trying to give the audience an experience that is unsettling and intense and to some degree a sense of how violent and upsetting that environment must be,” he added.

It is not the first time detainees' experiences at Guantanamo Bay have been portrayed on stage and screen.

Michael Winterbottom co-directed docu-drama “The Road to Guantanamo” in 2006 based on the true story of three British Muslims who were held at the US military base in Cuba before being released.

South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu also appeared in a US version of a London play called “Guantanamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom” based on spoken testimony given by detainees.  

Thorny Themes

Playing politics at London theaters, the play's director says they were trying to explore and interrogate and challenge the political landscape.

“Whatever your politics, we are talking about human rights and the consequences of human rights being expendable,” Hingorani said.

Guantanamo Boy is one of several recent London plays that tackle political themes.

“The Trial of Ubu” at Hampstead Theatre puts Alfred Jarry's creation Ubu on trial at the International Criminal Court.

“The Riots” at the Tricycle Theatre also examined social unrest in Britain based on eyewitness accounts.

Hingorani opines that the stage should engage with current events.

“It's not didactic, telling people what to think, but it can explore and interrogate and challenge the political landscape.“It's very difficult to take politics, be it personal or party politics, out of the equation, because it is a part of the world we inhabit.”

Guantanamo Bay is notorious for rights abuses and torture, with many prisoners over the years have committed suicide and gone on extensive hunger strikes.

After taking office in 2009, US President Barack Obama pledged to shut down the camp within a year, a pledge that was never fulfilled.

Reproduced with permission from