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Plays by Brenton and Mamet at Hampstead Theatre


Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THIS SPRING, Hamstead Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Howard Brenton’s #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei and the UK premiere of David Mamet’s Race – both on the Main Stage.

#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei runs from April 17 (previews from April 11) to May 18, 2013.

But what crimes, what? What crimes? Why won’t you say exactly what the crimes are? Admit what? What? What?

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.

Brenton’s new play is based on Barnaby Martin’s recent conversations with Ai in which he told the story of that imprisonment – by turns surreal, hilarious, and terrifying. A portrait of the Artist in extreme conditions, it is also an affirmation of the centrality of Art and of freedom of speech in civilised society.

Brenton returns to Hampstead Theatre following the critically acclaimed 55 Days last season. His other recent credits include Never So Good, Danton’s Death (National Theatre) and Anne Boleyn (Shakespeare’s Globe).

#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei is directed by James Macdonald, who will be making his Hampstead Main Stage debut following And No More Shall We Part in the Downstairs studio, which subsequently transferred to the Edinburgh Festival last summer.

As Associate Director of The Royal Court for 14 years, Macdonald’s many productions include Cock, Love and Information and Blasted. His credits elsewhere include A Delicate Balance (Almeida Theatre) and The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other (National Theatre).

#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei is designed by Ashley Martin Davis, with lighting by Matthew Richardson, sound by Emma Laxton and choreography by Scott Ambler. Casting will be announced shortly.

Race runs from May 29 (previews from May 23) to June 29, 2013.

We’re going to give them a surprise. Sufficient to get whosoever’s on the jury, to put aside all the nonsense they think they’re supposed to think about race. And rule on the facts.

A hotel room in disarray – lamps broken, cigarette butts, liquor bottles – a red sequin dress, and a man accused of rape… The accused is white, the accuser black. Two lawyers, one black and one white, must uncover and sift the facts of the case. Is the man guilty? And, irrespective of that, can his case be won?

Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet’s (Glengarry Glen Ross, Oleanna, American Buffalo, The Spanish Prisoner, The Untouchables and Speed-the-Plow) searing drama is a topical detective story about the perceptions and realities that colour our world – and the subtle shades between being a victim and being victimised.

Race is directed by Olivier award winner Terry Johnson, who returns to Hampstead Theatre following last season’s sell-out hit, Old Money. His other productions at Hampstead include The Memory of Water, Cracked and Dead Funny. He has also directed numerous West End and Broadway favourites such as the Tony Award-winning La Cage Aux Folles, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and his stage adaptation of The Graduate.

Race is designed by Tim Shortall and has lighting by Mark Henderson. Casting will be announced shortly.

Casting announced.

For more information or to book, call 020 7722 9301 or visit