With the successes — and near successes — of the Arab Spring, it's easy to forget the earlier revolutions that didn't succeed. Most recent was Iran's 2009 Green Revolution. And in Burma,in 2007, the Saffron revolution's protesting buddhist monks seemed about to topple the government. Sydney author Katie Pollock was watching on the news as the Generals finally cracked down. She started writing A Quiet Night in Rangoon.
Her play has three strands which slowly collide. An Aussie journalist (Kathryn Schuback) is writing a puff piece on Burmese tourism. A monk (John Buencamino), his friend (Barton Williams) and an underground Burmese blogger (Aileen Huynh) are hiding from the authorities after the protests. A major in the Burmese army (Felino Dolloso) attends to his buddhist devotions, preparing to follow whatever orders may come next. In the background is the Lake (Shauntelle Benjamin) in Rangoon, which swallows secrets and people, and the Internet itself, played with scene-stealing effervescence by Sonya Kerr as capricious, fact-laden and needy.
Where do the ripples go when they disappear? is the question that constantly resurfaces. Where did the protesters of 1988 go? Where will the monks of the present day go after the Saffron revolution? A Quiet Night in Rangoon isn't so much a search for answers to Burma's many problems, as a quest to hand out the right questions.
Despite its 2007 setting, the play is strongly rooted in the protests of 1988 which brought Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's to prominence, and consigned her to long periods of house arrest. The fates of people from this earlier period drive the present for the leads. All of them are Burmese loyalists, but some are much more powerful than others. And despite the hope presented in the play, you know throughout that these differences won't be heading towards a comforting resolution.
Image by Zorica Purlija.