(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/17.)
Howard Brenton's most recent play, 55 Days, dealt with the imprisonment, trial and execution of Charles I. His new one could easily be called 81 Days since it covers the detention, interrogation and eventual release of the conceptual artist, Ai Weiwei, by the Chinese government in 2011.
Based on a book by Barnaby Martin, it is an eloquent piece of quasi-documentary theatre that raises any number of issues: chief amongst them the bafflement of the monolithic state in dealing with artistic freedom.
Any fear we might be in for a dour evening is quickly expelled by James Macdonald's production which has the excellent idea of treating Weiwei's story as if it were piece of installation art.