In a press statement, Ai Weiwei commented, "China is a society that forbids any flow of the information and freedom of speech. This is on record, so everybody should know this. I am delighted that #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei will be live-streamed to the world. It will bring the play’s themes of art and society, freedom of speech and openness, the individual and the state to a new, broad and receptive global audience. Without freedom of speech there is no modern world – just a barbaric one. I’d like to thank my close friend Larry Warsh and Hampstead Theatre for supporting the story by allowing it to be heard on a much bigger scale – and for free, which is true to its spirit. I would really like to be there on opening night but unfortunately my passport still hasn’t been returned to me. Good luck to all involved."
Directed by James Macdonald, the play is based on Barnaby Martin’s conversations with Ai Weiwei. On April 3, 2011, as he was boarding a flight to Taipei, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was arrested at Beijing Airport. Advised merely that his travel "could damage state security," he was escorted to a van by officials, after which he disappeared for 81 days. On his release, the government claimed that his imprisonment related to tax evasion. In his conversations with Martin, Ai Weiwei told the story of his imprisonment - by turns surreal, hilarious and terrifying. According to press materials, the play is a portrait of the artist in extreme conditions, it is also an affirmation of the centrality of art and of freedom of speech in civilized society.
Brenton was last represented at Hampstead Theatre by the premiere of 55 Days last year. Other recent plays include Never So Good and his adaptation of Danton's Death (both at the National Theatre) and Anne Boleyn (Shakespeare's Globe).
In the play, Benedict Wong plays Ai with Christopher Goh, Junix Inocian, Andrew Koji, Orion Lee, David Lee-Jones, Andrew Leung, Richard Rees and David Tse.
The production is designed by Ashley Martin Davis, with lighting by Matthew Richardson, sound by Emma Laxton and choreography by Scott Ambler. To book tickets, contact the box office on 020 7722 9301, or visit www.hampsteadtheatre.com for more details. To watch the show live and for free on April 19, visit www.hampsteadtheatre.com or www.youtube.com/hampsteadtheatre. The live-streaming will begin at 7:30 PM London time. Viewers can interact via twitter and facebook throughout the live-streaming using #aiwwlivestream.