FEATURE: I Have Met The Enemy (And The Enemy Is Us) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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For Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award-winning theatre company Common Wealth, the international gun crime epidemic is not something to be passively observed; it’s a problem which demands continuous, concentrated, scrutiny. The type of observation that, perhaps, would support our understanding of the considerable part the UK plays in adding to the world epidemic.

Their bold and brave new production, I Have Met The Enemy (And The Enemy Is Us) sets out to strengthen our understandings of the UK’s deep-rooted connections in supporting and funding internal arms dealings. Staged at Byker Community Centre from Wednesday 16th-Saturday 26th October, the play attempts to step outside of a direct and brutal style of informing its audience, instead choosing to draw attention to the human impact of trade through character storytelling. 

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.”

Although a hard-hitting documentation of the UK’s involvement in the international arms trade, the play seeks to inform rather than lecture its audience, and White points out that prior knowledge isn’t necessary. “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?”

It’s about being human as much as it is about the arms trade

The stage at Byker Community Centre will be filled with 72 electronic metronomes, which represent the 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets sold to Saudi Arabia this year by the UK. The audience is invited to explore the space, make decisions about when or how they want to participate, but always with the distinct knowledge that they are complicit. Alexander Eley, a former British soldier, and Mo’min Swaitat, a Palestinian citizen, guide the audience on their journey and share their own experiences, including the discovery of a shared love of techno. Yemen-based painter Shatha Altowai joins the production through video footage, sharing her own experiences and the impact of British arms used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen today. Seven local people have also been chosen by co-promoters Northern Stage to participate and help the audience understand the arms trade.

As White confirms, I Have Met The Enemy… is so much more than a stage show. “[It’s about] 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.”

The play is designed as a conversation starter, rather than an exclamation point, as White concludes: “Now we know that arms are being made at the end of our streets, what happens next?”. Big questions indeed. 

I Have Met The Enemy (And The Enemy Is Us) is performed at Byker Community Centre, Newcastle from Wednesday 16th-Saturday 26th October


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