Preview: The Lady Of Burma, Old Vic, London

Life of Burma's first lady gets star treatment
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The Independent Culture

When the theatre director Richard Shannon met the actress Liana Mau Tan Gould, he was struck by her likeness to the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It set him to wondering whether anyone had written a play about the Nobel Prize winner and, if not, whether such a play could help the campaign to get her released from the house arrest she has endured for years.

No one had - and the Burma Campaign UK loved the idea of using theatre to promote its message about democracy and human rights. The resulting work, The Lady of Burma, will be staged in a one-off fundraiser, the biggest event the campaign has ever held.

Liana Gould will perform an edited version of Shannon's script while celebrity supporters including Juliet Stevenson, Sinead Cusack, Prunella Scales, John Pilger and Richard Wilson will read speeches and perform poems. Maureen Lipman will host the evening.

Yvette Mahon, the Burma Campaign UK's director, says they are always looking for ways to connect people to what is happening in this remote country. "This is a way of telling the political story - through the woman, the mother, the sacrifice - that humanises the issues. They are the things Aung San Suu Kyi hates us focusing on but they capture people's emotions."

Scales, a campaign supporter since the time of Suu Kyi's first arrest in 1989, says she is "honoured" to be taking part. "I am moved by her courage, her passionate commitment in the face of overwhelming challenges, the sacrifices that she has made for the people of Burma and her determination and hope for the future," she said.

If the show sells out, it should make £30,000 for the campaign. And Shannon is optimistic that the play will have a future life in London and around the country. "My hope is that the heroic story of Aung San Suu Kyi will reach a wider audience, adding to the momentum that will lead to her release and the return of democracy to Burma."

Tickets £20 to £150 (08700 606 628), 12 November