Manual Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei

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The tough, disconcertingly odd inquisitors began to warm to Weiwei, to respect him, and become interested in his art — a kind of Stockholm Syndrome in reverse, as the dramatist puts it in his preface to the play. There are also fascinating scenes involving high-level government officials which suggest the confusion and fear they feel about dissidents in the digital age.

How do you keep the lid on a population with access to the internet, Twitter accounts and mobile phones?

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The action takes place in a white cube, dominated by a huge wooden container of the kind used to transport cultural artefacts. This is a compelling play for today and it should reach a wide audience. It is being live-streamed for free tonight at 7.

Hanging Man (Silver)

No doubt Chinese government officials will be watching it with keen interest. This opens up to reveal the protagonist and to embody the two different prisons in which he was detained.

AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY - Official Trailer

The two interrogation scenes also beautifully capture the bewilderment of a rigid state when confronted by works of imagination. Matters turn more serious when Weiwei is transferred to an army camp, finds that even his bodily functions are minutely supervised and is accused by a sportsman, wearing a Giggs number 11 football shirt, of subverting state power. In a way, the evening is like an odd mix of Kafka and Beckett. But there is also something deeply Beckettian in the idea that drama can be made out of the process of waiting: for long periods Weiwei is confined to a chair staring silently outwards while his captors seem as much victims of the system as himself.

Harsh interrogation scenes? Communist Party doublespeak? Perhaps rounded off with pronouncements about freedom of speech? Yes, all of the above is in there.

Hanging man : the arrest of Ai Weiwei (Book, ) []

The pace in the first half is slow, cautious. But the slow burn strikes sparks in the second half.

The quietly smothering nature of the drama comes to feel confining to us as well. And so the dramatic upsurges, when they come, register all the more. Asked to read out his blogs against the state, Weiwei reheats his anger. He quotes Mao to an uncomprehending interrogator — wearing a Ryan Giggs strip — to back his argument that being critical of the state is actually an act of patriotism. Soft power indeed. We have noticed that there is an issue with your subscription billing details. Please update your billing details here. Please update your billing information. The subscription details associated with this account need to be updated.

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