The company, Northern International Theatre, consists of actors David Bowen, who has worked extensively in television and theatre, and Cilla Baynes, an Anglo-Burmese performer who has been awarded an MBE for her work with refugees, as well as musician and composer Omar Sattaur. Between them the two versatile actors play a variety of roles which tell the history of Burma in the twentieth century, through British colonial rule to the brutal military dictatorship of today.
After the play, the actors, the director David Bell (who was born in Burma), the writer Pamela Brough Sandiford and a representative of the Co-operative society sit at the front of the theatre and talk to the audience and answer questions. I thought I knew something about Burma, but now I know so much more. The Co-operative actively supports the play and has a very clear Burma policy: they have delisted the country as a tourist destination for instance. The Burma Play is available for performances ‘where it will be of most influence and value’.
Perhaps the clearest message to take away was a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi (imprisoned now for over 14 years) “Please use your liberty to promote ours” and a plea to support the Burma Campaign UK.
Another moving tribute to the people of Burma is the film Burma VJ which is the story of the Saffron Revolution as told through footage taken by reporters, much of which at great personal risk. This film is the first offering in the 8th Human Rights Film Festival, organised by the DEP Masters students at Oxford Brookes. The Burma Play was a pre-festival offering – the main festival runs from Friday 26th February to Friday 5th March at venues all over Oxford and features films on a wide variety of human rights topics from Gaza to slavery. At all the events there will be a speaker and all are absolutely free. The website www.humanrightsfilmfest.org has more details so check it out and do go along. Everyone is welcome.