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Tutu stage appearance wins praise
October 4, 2004
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has received a rapturous reception while appearing in a New York off-Broadway play critical of US detention at Guantanamo Bay.
He played a British judge who questioned the legal justification of the detention regime, in Guantanamo - Honour-bound to Defend Freedom.

"He was incredible," Alyssa Seiden of theatre company Culture Project told BBC Radio 4. "He moved the crowd."

Tutu told the New York Times he had "butterflies" before his appearance.

The play was first performed in London (photo credit: John Haynes)

The play is based on the lives of actual detainees: Jamal al-Harith, also known as Jamal Udeen; Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national who has lived in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, for 20 years; Moazzam Begg and Ruhal Ahmed.

Mr Begg and Mr al-Rawi are still being held in the camp, while Mr Ahmed and Mr al-Harith have been released.

Guantanamo was first staged at The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, north west London, and was compiled from transcripts and interviews of Britons already released.

Once a leading campaigner against apartheid, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Tutu is a vocal critic of the Guantanamo system.

He played Lord Justice Steyn in two productions of the play at Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.

The New York Times reported that, before going onstage, Archbishop Tutu joked: "I'm not used to playing someone else. Why did I get myself into this?"

Ms Seiden, Culture Project's company manager, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "He received a standing ovation the second he walked on."

Widely known

Archbishop Tutu followed his brief performance by answering questions from the audience.

"In the short amount of time his point of view and his feelings came across crystal clear," Ms Seiden said.

She hoped Archbishop Tutu's appearance would make concerns about the detention of terror suspects in Cuba more widely known.

"It's an issue that need to be known and needs to get out there," she said. "The American people need to know what is going on."

The play was written by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo, and directed by Nicolas Kent and Sacha Wares.


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