Theatre Review: #WeAreArrested At Arcola Theatre

#WeAreArrested, Arcola Theatre ★★★★☆

By James FitzGerald Last edited 56 months ago

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Last Updated 19 November 2019

Theatre Review: #WeAreArrested At Arcola Theatre #WeAreArrested, Arcola Theatre 4
Photo: Ellie Merridale © RSC

The pen is mightier than the sword, but is the penitentiary mightier than the pen? #WeAreArrested considers the figure of a jailed journalist as an emblem of our weird time — when ‘alternative facts’ are no longer just the weaponry of internet trolls, but even governments who want to silence their critics.

It’s written by Can Dündar, an exiled newspaper editor whose stories got him locked up Turkey — allegedly the world’s top imprisoner of reporters. But in depersonalising the details of his tale, Dündar unfurls a dystopia that alludes to many other nations in which freedom of speech is at risk.

Photo: Ellie Merridale © RSC

Peter Hamilton Dyer excels as the semi-real character of Can, delivering his story of wrongful incarceration. We’re spoken to directly from the jail cell, as if reading a normal column sent from the field. Dündar’s prose is highly writerly, with the waiting games of prison life relayed in detail, as well as the little fantasies an inmate must indulge to keep themselves sane. There’s an unexpected but charming interlude which sees Can magically turn his prison breakfast into an al fresco brunch.

Photo: Ellie Merridale © RSC

The monologues over-explain a little bit, which has the effect of pushing a pair of supporting players into the shadows. Meanwhile, extra words could have been spent delivering on the play’s title, which hints at an exploration of social media’s role in miscarriages of justice. But Dündar’s play still remains a vigorous polemic about press freedom — the sort you wish didn’t have to exist.

#WeAreArrested, Arcola Theatre, Ashwin Street, E8 3DL. Tickets £10-£27, until 7 December 2019.