Brighton Fringe 2008
The Lady of Burma
James Seabright and Louise Chantal
Venue: The Udderbelly
Festival: Brighton Fringe
The inspirational true story of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi is told in this compelling solo performance.
The Lady of Burma documents the life of Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader of Burma and Nobel Peace Prize winner. This play faced a formidable challenge doing justice to a woman of such stature.
Thankfully, it was performed with subtlety and a richness of tone by Liana Gould and did well to articulate the turbulence of Suu Kyi’s political career, interlacing it with moments of personal pathos. The fragile physicality presented by this assured performer served well as a contrast to the seemingly inexhaustible strength of Suu Kyi’s spirit. This tension was further emphasised by the stark prison bars that enclosed the small, concrete staging area.
The subject matter was shocking and informative, giving voice to tragedies which had been suppressed by Burma’s restrictive censorship laws. The play operated as documentary theatre rather than narrative drama which perhaps accounted for the very occasional loss of focus. In saying this, the moments when Gould depicted the well of feeling residing beneath Suu Kyi’s austere exterior were hugely powerful and affecting.
With Burma in the spotlight once again following the devastating cyclone, this plays acts as a timely reminder of the country’s checkered history. The home in which Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest was damaged in this catastrophe. This story is not consigned to the safe distance of history and remains unfinished.