Howard Brenton’s new play about Chinese artist and political prisoner Ai Weiwei will be live-streamed online, in keeping with the real-life story’s themes of freedom of speech and spirit.

The performance of #aiww:The Arrest of Ai Weiwei will take place next Friday 19 April 2013 from 7.30pm and will be available to view free via the theatre’s website www.hampsteadtheatre.com and Youtube (website www.youtube.com/hampsteadtheatre. Viewers can interact via Twitter and Facebook throughout the live-streaming using #aiwwlivestream.

Ai Weiwei himself commented: “China is a society that forbids any flow of the information and freedom of speech. This is on record, so everybody should know this. I am delighted that #aiww:The Arrest of Ai Weiwei will be live-streamed to the world. It will bring the play’s themes of art and society, freedom of speech and openness, the individual and the state to a new, broad and receptive global audience.

“Without freedom of speech there is no modern world – just a barbaric one. I’d like to thank my close friend Larry Warsh and Hampstead Theatre for supporting the story by allowing it to be heard on a much bigger scale – and for free, which is true to its spirit. I would really like to be there on opening night but unfortunately my passport still hasn’t been returned to me. Good luck to all involved.”

On 3 April 2011, Ai Weiwei was arrested as he was boarding a flight to Taipei. Advised merely that his travel “could damage state security”, he was escorted to a van by officials, after which he disappeared for 81 days. On his release, the government claimed that his imprisonment related to tax evasion. Brenton’s play is based on recent conversations with Ai in which he told the story of that imprisonment to journalist and writer Barnaby Martin.

#aiww:The Arrest of Ai Weiwei is directed by James Macdonald and stars Benedict Wong plays Ai. It opens at Hampstead on 17 April 2013 (previews from tonight, 11 April) and runs until 18 May.


In other theatrical broadcast news, Globe on Screen will return this summer. Shakespeare's Globe, in partnership with Arts Alliance Media, will distribute to cinema screens around the world three of its blockbusters from the 2012 theatre season. The season comprises the multi Whatsonstage.com Award-winning and Olivier-nominated Twelfth Night, starring Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance, as well as Henry V and The Taming of the Shrew.

All three performances have been captured in high definition and will be broadcast in their entirety in digital cinema quality, with full 5.1 surround sound. The Globe on Screen website, with cinema listings, trailer and links to book tickets, can be found at www.globeonscreen.com.