New play about Ai Weiwei to open April 11 in London

Artist Ai Weiwei in Beijing after his release from secret detention in 2011. The play "#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei" opens in London on April 11.
(Andy Wong / Associated Press)
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A new play about artist Ai Weiwei’s secret detention in 2011 will premiere in April in London. Written by British playwright Howard Brenton, “#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei” is set to open at the Hampstead Theatre.

The title of the play is a reference to Ai’s Twitter handle. The artist, who is a regular user of the social networking site, has gotten into trouble with Chinese officials a number of times due to his online activism.

In 2011, Ai was arrested by Beijing officials while attempting to travel to Hong Kong. He was put in secret detention for 81 days with little communication with the outside world. Since his release, he has not been allowed to travel abroad.


Brenton is an award-winning playwright whose best known work is “Pravda,” a media satire that he wrote with David Hare and which debuted in 1985 at London’s National Theatre with Anthony Hopkins.

Brenton’s dramas are often provocative and tackle political and social issues. His works include “Weapons of Happiness,” about a factory strike; “Paul,” a controversial take on the Gospel; and the recent “Anne Boleyn,” about the second wife of Henry VIII.

“#aiww” is based on conversations that took place between Ai and writer Barnaby Martin as told in Martin’s book “Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei.”

No casting has been announced for the play, which is scheduled to run April 11 to May 18.


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