Bloody Human Rights!
A Queen Mary University of London public engagement project in association with Amnesty International and Menagerie Theatre Company.
Belfast, Dublin, London, Cambridge: Alan Dignam's Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights! on tour diary: London Amnesty
London Amnesty International Human Rights Centre, Tuesday 22/10/2013 6-9pm
Our first night at Amnesty. I'm very nervous now we are back in London. Again sold out with a waiting list but a miserable rainy night again. Audience eventually turns up we start slightly late as in Belfast. Audience is mostly students and NGO workers with some members of the public. In age terms 17-25 year olds predominate with some 30 and 40 and 50 somethings scattered about. Clear majority of audience are women.
Set up in amnesty is a large auditorium with big stage which we are worried creates a barrier with the audience.
I feel very tired and give long rambling intro. Not slick compared to other two nights.
Well: Reaction words: "Deception, common issue, illegality, no protection, guilty, status, voiceless community, corruption, greed, deceit, charm, threat, miscommunication, negotiation, gender."
PM insists tonight on a suggested action from audience not just observations: Actions = "Solve communication, respect her, sit together, remove financial pressure, government subsidies, interpreter to help woman, don’t lie."
Discussion breaks out: what is cost of water? Ethics, Subsidy for BEW to help poor communities, informed consent, contract confidential?
Time Signals seem to work and we are ok for time.
Minister: Reaction words: "Selfish, frustration, impotence, distance, always room for courage, business powerful, government weak, no moral responsibility, angry."
All three actors Hotseated:
"Cost benefit analysis regarding life, subsidies, liability, passing buck, legally not responsible, moral responsibility, no accountability, dead woman forgotten, high cost of water is a Human Rights abuse."
Goes ok but all three characters hotseated on stage is confusing for audience much better one at a time as we have done before.
Interval – audience very excited and discussing issues during interval although were a bit muted in room during first half. NGO workers particularly impressed.
The Trial: Patrick tries full version of Trial – lets it run and audience become jury. Works ok but not as good as intervention in Dublin where audience took control.
Reaction: "Conflict, dodgy dutch nationality, avoiding tax?, Indian law applies, internationalisation of disputes, unfair."
As before Speed Legislation ensues: List of suggested legislation is:
1)Multinational to use ‘do no harm’ principle as HR internalised by Multinationals in risk assessment and compliance enforced with UN reports and monitoring.
2)Multinationals subject to compulsory UN code of practice on HR and Governments enforce nationally – no forum shopping allowed.
3)Transnational agreement that HR protected in all public and private contracts.
4)Roles matter so provide better ones through compulsory international HR agreement with severe punishment for breach.*
And legislated for * rule. Good clear rules tonight.
Roles, be it working for a multinational or a minister matter in outcomes is becoming an interesting theme in all the performances. Audience seems to be unable to escape the roles when they take them onstage perhaps recognising that if they had these jobs for real they would do the same as the characters.
Good discussion of the issues afterwards. Invited to do Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights! at UN in Geneva- we will see…
Postmortem: AD signalling timings worked better, dramatically the acting was very good tonight (PM wants it better), audience a bit muted possibly by barrier of big stage, need to get them into the plays, Hotseat only one character at a time, maybe we do Trial as in Dublin and try to get audience to get control and give judgement. Get audience to practice shouting stop so they really get the idea they have power.
London Amnesty International Human Rights Centre, Wednesday 23/10/2013 6-9pm
Our film crew (Adam Broder and Reeta Varpama) from Colour Films) are here from midday doing interviews and will film the evening performance. I am concerned that they be as discrete as possible both with the filming and sound recording as it will interfere with the audience. PM does not think it will be a problem but I am worried about it. As it turns out they have a talent for being invisible while holding a camera and mic.
Second night at Amnesty and we have a crowd of about 70 of mixed age with a majority of women. Quite a buzz in the audience during the warmup.
After the well: Patrick asks what did you see: "Audience Reaction words: Deception, lies, intimidation, mistranslation discrimination, murder, deprivation, generosity, greed, maniplutation." Patrick asks what did you feel: "Shame, angry, frustration, inevitability"
Patrick introduces stroboscope again for first time since Belfast. Actors do 10 freeze frames from parts of The Well. Audience closes eyes in between freeze frames as actors get in place and PM counts down from five. Audience reacts well to this and it warms up the interactive forum to come.
The audience fixes on the Mayor's deceit (one spectactor BD shoots the mayor and Trevor) and a translator comes forward who tries to speak in a cockney accent (we have Basanti Dash speaking English with a cockney accent to represent the fact she speaks a different language than Trevor highlighting, ala Brian Friel's translations, the problems and importance of using appropriate language to communicate).
Questions come from BD suggested by the audience and the translator which focus on the cost of water once the Well is operated by BEW. BD is empowered by the translator and the audience. Audience again make all sit on the same level with her, although the Mayor resists and subverts this by sitting on his case.
Observations from the audience: "contract is the enemy, informed consent needed, Mayor has power, power is offstage, contract has power."
PM insists they provide a solution: Reaction = better community communication, she has an ally in the translator and is alive, more affected community involvement is essential to solving this problem.
AD observation: This was the first time the audience seemed to understand the issues and be able within the parameters of the scene to see a way of fixing it.
The Minister: Patrick asks what did they see= Threats, legal, illegal, UN, nuanced, commodity, moral, access, short career, legal speak.
Hotseat: (the characters are questioned one by one by the audience):
George = controls audience easily with emphasis on shareholders, BEW not a charity, all legal – explains how BEW UK does not own BEW india. Audience suggests HR compliance may be good for business. George sort of accepts. Audience enjoys George as clever manipulative CEO.
Minister: Audience quiz on UK HR policy and on party funding corruption. Audience frustrated and cynical about his role.
Becky: Becky gets difficult questions on UK HR policy and on minute taking during meeting. ‘Where were the other advisors?’
Patrick asks audience how they feel after the Hotseat: all colluding, corruption, power, George has global power not national.
Patrick asks the audience to break into groups of 5-6 and make an image with their bodies of the BEW corporate structure that George describes as meaning BEW UK has no liability. Results are really amazing and complex. Audience really buzzed up as we have a 20 min break.
The Trial: PM lets Trial run ¾ way through and then interrupts and encourages audience to take control. They do and we get an impartial judge and two great advocates: Discussion as to who was responsible for BD death – mayor is an Indian govt official, why did India sign the treaty (it did not) and had to take emergency action because of riots, Judgment done to countdown clock and judge makes india and BEW compensate affected community.
Great atmosphere in the room as we move to the speed legislation:
As before Speed Legislation ensues: Speakers from each group come forward and have 1min to explain their proposed legislation then when all have done they do a 10 sec reprise and legislation voted on by clapomiter. List is:
1) HR legislation to be embedded in national and international business practice.
2) All multinationals to conform to HR rules with external audit body results publicised.
3) No corporate group liability evasion allowed.*
4) No corporate funding of political parties allowed.*
5) Investment Arbitration to be impartial.*
6) Water privatisation must have real affected community consultation.*
7) HR to be respected by nations and external audit to be done by independent compliance body.
And legislated for * rule.
Evening ends very buzzy and exciting: I'm a bit taken aback at what happened as people seem to be genuinely inspired by the evening.
Postmortem: AD signalling timings worked, Images worked brilliant, dramatically Rena seemed off and had problems in the MInister, Shane also but may have been as his lines followed Rena. Both Rena and Shane seemed uncomfortable in hotseat – audience didn’t notice. We agree we need to work on hotseating difficult questions. We discuss the inspiring aspect of things as we don’t quite know what’s inspiring about what we are doing? PM not happy overall yet as he wants to push the audience more. Push for action suggestions rather than questions. We move on to the Drama Studio at Queen Mary tomorrow night.
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