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Darren Weller On ... Playing Julian Assange

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Darren Weller plays Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Ron Elisha's play Man in the Middle, which premiered in Sydney last year (under the title Julian Assange: The Stainless Steel Rat) and has transferred to Theatre503 in Battersea, where it opened last week and continues until 3 February.

Weller has worked extensively within Australian theatre, performing with most major companies around the country including The Sydney Theatre Company, Company B Belvoir and The Bell Shakespeare Company.

Tell us about Man in the Middle
It’s part political satire, part drama, which places Julian Assange and his actions in the centre of a discussion which examines transparency in governments, the shifting battle lines of democracy in a cyber age, individual rights and also human frailty.

Is it sympathetic to Assange?
The play is neither sympathetic to nor damning of Assange, but seeks to use all the information available to present a human being in the middle of one of the great debates of our time.

Do you think his claims about a conspiracy have merit?
I think the case was initially handled very poorly by the Swedish authorities which consequently did harm the reputation of Assange. However all arguments of conspiracy regarding the Swedish allegations have been trumped by revelations during Bradley Manning's pre-trial hearing that the US military has evidence which proves there was collusion between Manning and Assange in obtaining the classified material leaked by Manning. If these claims can be proven then the US federal grand jury would be much closer to bringing charges against Assange.

Is it more difficult playing him than it is playing a fictional character?
There is much more research to do! You not only have to ensure the characters actions are justified dramatically but are also consistent with who we know him to be, and with a man as elusive as Assange this has provided quite a challenge.

Do you ever get mistaken for him?
Yes, but as I do not come with a swarm of minders and an ankle bracelet I am very quickly revealed as an impostor.

Have you read his 'unofficial autobiography'? If so, what did you make of it?
I've read all the books! Obviously the unofficial autobiography, owing to the circumstance of its release, is unique among them. If one reads it as a transcript of interviews conducted between Assange and his ghost writer Andrew O'Hagan, then it provides some great insight into its subject. However if one reads it as a first draft of a story which was ultimately rejected by its author then you have to ask questions of its veracity. This is why I have researched thoroughly, using all the material available to try and find the consistencies among the information and work from there.

What do you hope people will learn from the play?
I hope the play reignites people's interest in the story beyond the Swedish allegations and, like all good theatre, challenges us to ask big questions of the world we live in and our place within it.

Any plans to transfer it after Theatre503?
I guess that's always a question of supply and demand and should the demand be there, then I see no reason why we wouldn't.


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