Banned theatrical play ‘Just a Dictator’ live-reading took place in Turkey

Just a Dictator, actor Barış Atay
Actor Barış Atay’s one-man play “Just a Dictator” had been banned prior to its staging in Artvin on January 9, and across Turkey on January 24. Despite the increasing pressure, Acting Union, actors, theatre-houses are reclaiming the play, and conducting live-reading in numerous locations.
The one-man theatrical play “Just a Dictator” was written by Onur Orhan, and staged by actor Barış Atay. The play has been staged since 2015, mostly in Istanbul’s Kadıköy and received joyous support from viewers who were energised after the play. Play asks the question “who is going to win in the end” and brings the question of social criticism forward.

‘Just a Dictator’ Poster

On January 9th 2018, the play was deemed as “undesirable” by the provincial governorship of Artvin, a city on the Northeastern Turkey. Only a couple of days after the initial cancellation of permits and later banishment of the play in Artvin, the home-stage of the play in Istanbul’s Kadıköy has been visited by police.

Theatre houses in Istanbul’s Kadıköy criticised the police visits stating that they are being pressured not to stage the play on January 12th. Three days later, main opposition Republican People’s Party CHP’s Istanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu filed a parliamentary question asking if actor Barış Atay’s one-man show “Just a Dictator” had been banned with governing Justice & Development Party AKP’s orders.

Before this question was answered, the home-stage of the play, Emek (Labour) Theatre House was surrounded by police forces, to prevent illegal and unpermitted staging of the play. Actor Atay reacted against the police siege around the theatre house and also criticised the next door pizzeria for filing complaint to the police that the stage has a back-door which might be used for bringing in viewers and actors.

Acting Union came forth and criticised the banishment of the play across Turkey, with a written statement which reiterated that actors are faced with an “all-out-censorship” that targets all kinds of cultural activities, on January 24.

On January 26, a call had been made for live-reading of the play “Just a Dictator” in numerous locations, on the evening of January 29th at 8.30 local time. ‘Do not Touch my Theatre Platform’ which is the organising committee of the civil disobedience action as live-reading of a banned play, has announced that they have received more than 2.000 requests for the script, which caused their e-mail servers to collapse, and they have uploaded the text online.

On the evening of the live-reading, several online radio stations have live-broadcasted the readings from several locations, while many actors have been present in various locations reading for their audience.

Actor Barış Atay’s twitter account has been suspended by Twitter during a live-streaming of his banned one-man show “Just a Dictator” and no further explanation has been announced yet.

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