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A new play exploring the 1988 Burmese Uprising comes to Tara Arts

Eastern Star

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

AHEAD of the 30th anniversary of the 1988 student uprising against the military dictatorship in Burma (now Myanmar) on August 8, Guy Slater in association with Tara Arts has announced the world premiere production of Eastern Star.

It will run at Tara Theatre from September 11 to September 29, 2018.

Eastern Star is based on the true story of the relationship between a BBC World Service journalist, Christopher Gunness and a Burmese human rights lawyer, U Nay Min, with the latter acting as the ‘architect’ of the revolution, and the former serving as its ‘voice’.

After the revolution was brutally suppressed, Christopher Gunness went on to comparative fame and fortune (he is currently director of communications with the UN in the Middle East) while U Nay Min was arrested, imprisoned for 16 years and tortured.

Set around their fraught and painful reunion 25 years after the revolution, Eastern Star examines the responsibility of global news corporations towards their sources, touching on the theme of news manipulation and fake news. The piece also shines a light on what happens when a journalist walks away from the subject of their story, while at its heart, it questions who writes history – the activist or the journalist?

Eastern Star is written and directed by Guy Slater, who was struck by Christopher Gunness’ story after hearing him speak at a fund-raising event, and with his permission set about adapting this fascinating story for the stage.

Slater has had a long and successful career in theatre and television. He ran the Horseshoe Theatre Company, mainly operating out of the Haymarket Theatre, for seven years. He has directed plays in many parts of the world – London, California, Edinburgh, New York and India. Actors he has worked with include Derek Jacobi, Gwen Watford, Timothy West, Paul Scofield, Zoe Wanamaker, Wendy Hillier, George Cole and David Morrissey. He has also written many plays for radio and television.

Christopher Gunness said:

“It’s surreal to have started a revolution by mistake without even realising it, but as a cub reporter at the BBC that’s just what I did. I never imagined that my reporting would play a part in shaping the fate of a nation and writing the first draft of its history. And with the Rohinga crisis deepening, that history is still being written. The true hero of this story is U Nay Min, and I am delighted that this story is being brought to the stage on this momentous anniversary.”

Casting will be announced in due course.

Tickets: £13.50 (concessions) and £17.50 (standard). To book, call the box office on 020 8333 4457 or visit www.tara-arts.com/.

Times: Tuesday, September 11 to Saturday, September 29 at 7.30pm; matinees on Saturday, September 22 and 29 at 3.30pm; and Thursday, September 27 at 3.30pm.

Post Show Discussions

Wednesdaym September 19: The Reporter and The Activist with Lyse Doucet (BBC Chief International Correspondent) and Christopher Gunness.

Wednesday, September 26: Myanmar Today: How did the student uprising of 1988 change history with Martin Smith (Project Burma).