A timely play based on the true story of an imprisoned Nobel Laureate.
On 3 April 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 eighty-one days. On his release, the government claimed that his imprisonment related to tax evasion.
Howard Brenton’s play is based on Ai Weiwei’s account in Barnaby Martin’s book Hanging Man, 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 freedom of speech in civilised society.