Lady whose incarcertaion brings inspiration

PUBLISHED: 14:26 30 April 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 16 August 2010

Lady of Burma. CREDIT Geraint Lewis

Lady of Burma. CREDIT Geraint Lewis

DEMOCRATICALLY elected Prime Minister of Burma, Nobel Peace Prize winner and political prisoner… This is the activist and writer Aung San Suu Kyi,

DEMOCRATICALLY elected Prime Minister of Burma, Nobel Peace Prize winner and political prisoner...

This is the activist and writer Aung San Suu Kyi, who won an election in 1990 as leader of the National League for Democracy party in Burma, but has been imprisoned by the military junta for 15 years.

She is still under house arrest, after her release from secret detention in Insein Prison for four months in 2003, with her detention extended every year since.

But while she may be physically incarcerated, her story has been free touring the country in the one-woman show by Richard Shannon, The Lady of Burma, recently presented at Greenwich Theatre.

Liana Mau Tan Gould plays Suu Kyi in a moving account of her experience as a prisoner, a wife separated from her husband and children and a witness to the horrors of dictatorship.

Her powerful performance also recounts with intensity and feeling her childhood, her deference to her father, the assassinated commander of the Burma Independence Army, Aung San, and her relationship with her strict but loving mother Ma Khin Kyi.

Also in the play is reference to her life and education in Oxford, her marriage to Michael Aris, her children and the cruelty of their separation (Mr Aris was not allowed to visit his wife just before his death of prostate cancer in 1999).

Particularly moving is her memory of the August uprisings in 1988 where thousands of students were massacred by the military.

As a witness to such atrocities and an embodiment of such determination, her inspirational character is perhaps too large to squeeze into an hour-long performance.

For this reason, it sometimes felt difficult to connect with the woman and her motivation, oft unclear what sparked her descent into peaceful resistance - was it her parents influence? Her patriotism? Religion or duty?

But the fact that the performance merely teases on the surface of Suu Kyi's courageous spirit may be a good thing - as it certainly makes you want to know more about this incredible woman.

As she said herself, "If I am invisible, I am rendered irrelevant," and it is this play that ensures she is not.

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