'It is no good saying that we know the situation in Bosnia from television. We don't. Most of the significant footage is on the cutting-room floor. Music theatre is one of those channels of communication that has to be kept open. It has the capacity to celebrate and to mourn - neither of those things can be done on TV.
'We have a very interesting disjunction: on the one hand the British music critics are attempting to assume a position of authority about information, morality and ethics and on the other, the people actually concerned, the ex-Yugoslav community that I spoke to, find the case quite different.
'There were some very good points, worth debating, and some inexcusable trivia. One criticism was inaudibility. We had ex-Yugoslav actors, and clearly one is not going to get every line that Katja Doric says as Hecuba. She is doing the play because it's her life-story. It was an historic event and I think if you complain about losing the odd word, you've got your heart and your brain in the wrong place.
'Irrespective of the messages, I think it was a successful artistic experience - certainly many people who saw the show found it very beautiful and funny in places. And I would sound a warning note: when examining the broader issues of what a musical form is about, the critics have made a mistake - they have belittled an important channel of cultural communication, and reduced its possibilities. Sarajevo represents a direction that we must keep open for art, the possibility of chewing on difficult things. I think I offered something rather special to the British musical world . . . I wish it had taken better care of it.'
Four performances of 'Sarajevo' at the Oxford Playhouse: 13, 14, 16 & 17 Sept (Booking: 0865 798 600)
Nigel Osborne was talking to Dominic CavendishReuse content