For Amnesty International Freedom of expression award winners ‘Common Wealth’, the international gun crime epidemic is not something to be passively interested in only when depressing news breaks from other parts of the world; it’s a problem which demands continuous, concentrated, observation. The type of observation that, perhaps, would support our understanding of the considerable part the UK, rarely reported for its arms involvement, plays in adding to the world epidemic.
Bold and brave, ‘I have met’ sets out to strengthen our understandings of the UK’s deep-rooted connections with supporting, and funding, internal arms dealings. Staged using a variety of characters (including a former British solider and a Palestinian citizen) and set on an inclusive stage show, the play attempts to step outside of a direct, and brutal, style of informing it’s audience; instead choosing to draw attention to the human impact of trade through character story telling. Strong characters, and an interesting script, were central to the creation of the show, something co-director Rhiannon White is keen to draw attention to; “What I love about this show is that against the backdrop of the arms trade we get to meet real people whose lives have been impacted by how the arms trade operates. The show is deeply emotional, personal and told by three incredible performers. It’s about being human as much as it is about the arms trade.”
A hard-hitting documentation of the UK’s involvement in the international arms trade, it’s clear that ‘I have’ seeks to inform, rather than lecture, it’s audience about certain, often unreported, realities. Yet for all of it’s informative nature, no background knowledge is required for the show, only a curious mind, something White is clear to let us know “you don’t need to know anything about the arms trade, but what we do ask is you come with an open mind and dip into the worlds we’re creating for you. whilst highlighting our complicity, as UK citizens in the arms trade. Can you believe we’re the second-largest arms dealer in the world?”
Multifaceted in its intentions, and aside from informing, ‘I have’ seeks to impact it’s audience in a number of ways, including, as White confirms “The power of connection, how we need to listen and understand each other better, as well as how music can help us express and lose ourselves and find each other again.”
Given it’s world premier at the Byker Community Centre, and delivered by a cast including a former British soldier and a Palestinian citizen, ‘I have’ is designed as a conversation starter, rather than an exclamation point. As White herself concludes with “Now we know that arms are being made at the end of our streets, what happens next?”. Big questions indeed.