#WeAreArrested poses some very important questions. What is the power of the press? How do we protect its freedom when its own government acts outside its legal jurisdiction? This is a deeply personal account of a globally relevant story. In such strange times where lies and truth are indistinguishable, #WeAreArrested reminds us of the importance of integrity, and the mightiness of the pen.
Almost immediately we are thrust into a make-believe meeting room, with three editors debating whether to publish their most impactful story: footage of weapons linked to their own government being smuggled into a neighbouring nation in a brutal war. What follows is the tale of a corrupt government overstepping its legally designated power. It’s surprising how much this true story plays out like a crime thriller.
In November 2015, editor-in-chief Can Dündar and bureau chief Erdem Gül for Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet were detained prior to their trial for allegedly “divulging state secrets”, referencing a story published earlier in the year. For 92 days, Dündar remained in solitary confinement, oppressed by what he called to be a “lack of colour”. “We Are Arrested”, his memoir of this time, is evidence that a free mind cannot be imprisoned, that thought and self-expression endure.
This idea is a recurring theme throughout the production. There is a truly enchanting scene in which the protagonist is imagining all his favourite delicacies at brunch; a bitter coffee, warm pastries and Buck’s Fizz. This is followed by him dreaming of dancing with his wife one more time, a rebellious, careless, intimate dance. He finds every opportunity to find pleasure in the smallest things: a cheese toastie cooked between the grills of the radiator, and the blissful few seconds of sunlight against his face each day.
The whole ensemble comes together thanks to Peter Hamilton Dyer (as Can Dündar), who is completely enthralling. The dialogue bounces between speaking directly to the audience and other characters, which limits the other performers from reaching their potential, but does not detract from an otherwise wholly captivating production.
Despite being heavily drawn from a true story; no specific names or locations are given. It is clearly a conscious decision to omit these details to let it become a parable. It is a common frame of mind to think that hush deals and censorship are issues other nations face, especially when sitting in the Arcola Theatre, a couple thousand miles from Turkey. Nevertheless #WeAreArrested is a welcome reminder that power can corrupt.