Arcola Theatre stages controversial musical about Taksim Square protests

  • Taksim Square features songs from the 2013 protests in Turkey
  • The original production, at Talimhane Tiyatrosu in Istanbul, caused the theatre to lose its government funding
  • UK premiere opens the Orient Express season at Arcola

The Arcola Theatre is to stage the UK premiere of Taksim Square, a new musical about the Gezi Park protests. Transferring from Talimhane Tiyatrosu in Istanbul, which lost its government funding for staging the work last year, it depicts the dramatic struggle for rights and freedoms which swept Turkey in May 2013.

When police burned the tents of 50 environmentalists camped out in Taksim Square, what started as a peaceful sit-in to protect one of Istanbul’s last public parks sparked anti-government protests involving over 3.5 million people.

One of the protestors was Mehmet Ergen, Artistic Director of Arcola Theatre, who has written and directed Taksim Square using original music and songs from the demonstrations themselves.

“It’s a piece about people’s anger at the government,” says Mehmet, “but also about their hope and determination. It’s a celebration, really, of what people refused to tolerate.”

“But the government has put up a fight. First they tried to silence the dissenters with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets, then they tried with censorship. The Culture Minister threatened to remove arts funding from any theatre company that supported the protests – even ones that had existed for forty years – and that’s exactly what they did. Talimhane, the other theatre I run, lost all of its funding for staging this musical.”

The musical plays in London for two nights only: on Sunday 18 and Monday 19 January. It opens Orient Express, a season of Turkish-language work which also includes a new adaptation from Oguz Atay, the Talimhane production of Philip Ridley’s Dark Vanilla Jungle, and a political cabaret from Enver Aysever and Çiğdem Erken.

Tickets for all shows in the season – priced at £15 (£12 concessions) – are available now.

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