2 Weeks. 7 Performances. 500 Spectactors. 10 Solutions.
The Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights! project had its origin in a March 2010 meeting between Gabriela Quijano from Amnesty International and Professor Alan Dignam from the School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London. Gabriela (Gaby) had been expressing her frustration at trying to draw public attention to the importance of legal concepts such as corporate personality and limited liability in facilitating business human rights abuse. It was hard, she and Alan agreed, to get most people to engage with the technicalities of corporate law even though it was really important. Unfortunately it was also really, really, dull! Later that year, they met again and the idea of trying to put together a public engagement project that dealt with vital but dull technical aspects of business and human rights abuse was born. They would find a way to make the technical issues interesting to a wider audience. Over the course of 2011, they worked together on identifying key recurring important technical issues that were present in many business human rights abuse cases.
(A Dull Technical Corporate Law Issue as Interpreted by our Audience)
By September 2011 they identified the following as key areas to open to public scrutiny:
Based on this, Alan obtained funding from the Queen Mary Centre for Public Engagement to write, develop and document three plays about business and human rights abuse. Over the course of 2012, he researched hundreds of examples of business human rights abuse to find case studies that had particular dramatic possibility. Around this time, Alan comissioned Patrick Morris from Menagerie Theatre Company to help develop the plays for public performance. Both Patrick and Alan were keen that the plays should not be just static performances but that the public should get a chance to interact with the plays and potentially fix the problems illustrated. Similarly, Ali Campbell from the Queen Mary University of London drama department advised Alan on how to develop the plays he was writing as interactive/forum plays.
(Members of the Audience "in" the play)
At this point, the overall shape of the project was clear – the plays would be a mash up of the key issues Gaby and Alan had identified, they would be interactive, and they would provide solutions and explorations that could form the basis of real world reform, and possibly open new avenues of research on business and human rights. They also hoped that by building a website about the project a wider public audience would be engaged and people could develop their own interactive forum theatre projects or use the Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights! scripts and experience to perform the plays.
(An Audience Member Fixing Things)
By summer 2012, the plays were largely complete and were rehearsed with actors to see if they worked. In general, they did, and performances were scheduled for October 2013. Work between Alan and Patrick on rewrites continued through 2013 to get the interactive moments really sharp. In April 2013, Gaby handed the Amnesty International side of the project over to Peter Frankental, Economic Relations Programme Director for Amnesty International UK who worked with Alan on the final focus of the plays. As October loomed, Patrick and Alan worked on the format for the evening – audience warm ups, the plays, getting the audience involved in the plays, getting the audience to physically express technical issues like corporate group structure, strobascope (the actors do freeze frames of key parts of the plays to help the audience interact), hotseating (the audience grill the characters) and the back story for all the characters – until it seemed ready.
Meet Basanti Dash, a community leader responsible for the village well. Will she consent to the privatising of the well? She will if BEW, a fictional British Company, and the local Mayor have their way...
The driving ambition behind the Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights! project was a shared need by Professor Alan Dignam and Amnesty International to raise public awareness of important but complex aspects of business involvement in human rights abuse. This is the outcome.
Whether you are new to the project or you attended one of the performances, explore the site and most importantly tell us what you think. Business and government engagement on the issues raised here will only increase if public pressure is brought. That future starts with you.
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