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The Theatreguide.London Review

I Wish To Die Singing
Finborough Theatre   Spring 2015

Neil McPherson has assembled from historical documents, verbatim accounts and Armenian poetry a moving and shocking reminder of the genocide of Armenians in Turkey one hundred years ago. 

And I might be risking an international incident with that statement, because one of the evening's revelations is that the world has spent much of the past century trying to pretend that the event never happened, while several countries refuse to use the word genocide in referring to it among them Turkey, for obvious reasons; Israel, to forestall competition for the Holocaust; and Britain, out of oil-diplomacy concerns. 

Whatever you call it, all but the Turks will acknowledge that in April 1915 the Turkish government began the process of eliminating the country's one-and-a-half million resident Armenians through mass murder, torture and death marches to desert concentration camps. 

In the course of the 90-minute piece seven actors speak the words of survivors, witnesses and later poets and historians. 

Three children who somehow survived the death march recount their stories, the Turkish official in charge denies everything, diplomats from outside Turkey waffle their way around actually doing anything, and poets attempt to bear witness to what will otherwise be forgotten. 

It is unquestionably a moving and harrowing documentation, especially when we are reminded that a number of German diplomats and civil servants in Turkey at the time went on to be key figures in Germany's own genocide two decades later, having clearly been very attentive students. 

Director Tommo Fowler keeps the story moving forward while giving each speaker and episode its due, and the actors create rounded instant characterisations. 

Ultimately this text and presentation might be more at home in an academic programme or political event than an above-a-pub fringe theatre. But there is no questioning its power and importance.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - I Wish To Die Singing - Finborough Theatre 2015

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