#aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, Hampstead Theatre, review The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, about the treatment of the Chinese artist, is a compelling play for today, says Charles Spencer. Howard Brentonâ€™s drama about the treatment of the artist Ai Weiwei at the hands of the Chinese authorities is clearly An Important Play. But it is also a very good play â€“ moving, scary, gripping, inventive and at times laugh-out-loud funny. It is based directly on the account this brave and thought-provoking artist gave to the writer Barnaby Martin about his arrest in his book Hanging Man. As a consequence it has a satisfying smack of authenticity. And that is just as well, for Weiweiâ€™s experience was at times so surreal as to defy belief. The man responsible for the Birdâ€™s Nest stadium and the sunflower seeds at Tate Modern was arrested on April 2011 as he was catching a flight to Hong Kong. He was held for 81 days and many feared he might never emerge. The fact that he did â€“ and everyone with an interest in the matter knows it â€“ means that Brentonâ€™s play necessarily lacks a degree of suspense. It nevertheless remains a constantly absorbing drama and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. If courage is grace under pressure, as Hemingway suggested, then Weiwei has it in spades. He is an unlikely hero with his big belly and straggly beard, but a hero he undoubtedly is, still tweeting to his followers and refusing to be cowed. The play largely consists of a series of interrogations. Initially Weiwei found himself being questioned by a cop who thought he had been brought in on a murder charge. In later interviews he was subjected to abuse about the nature of his art, and accused of being a con-man, making huge amounts of money with contentious tat. For those of us not always persuaded of the merits of conceptual art, it is disconcerting to discover that one has a faint twinge of sympathy for the Communist Party line. But it is impossible not to warm to Weiwei in Benedict Wongâ€™s remarkable performance. He captures the manâ€™s fear on arrest, but also his warmth, wit and bravery. And Brenton depicts something remarkable that happened during the course of the interrogations. The tough, disconcertingly odd inquisitors began to warm to Weiwei, to respect him, and become interested in his art â€“ a kind of Stockholm Syndrome in reverse, as the dramatist puts it in his preface to the play. There are also fascinating scenes involving high-level government officials which suggest the confusion and fear they feel about dissidents in the digital age. How do you keep the lid on a population with access to the internet, Twitter accounts and mobile phones? James Macdonald directs a gripping and ingenious production which captures the menace, fear and sudden moments of startling, surreal humour of the interrogation scenes. Meanwhile Ashley Martin Davisâ€™s design makes the production resemble a modern artwork. The action takes place in a white cube, dominated by a huge wooden container of the kind used to transport cultural artefacts. It is then ingeniously transformed into two different sets, one of them slyly alluding to Weiweiâ€™s Birdsâ€™s Nest. This is a compelling play for today and it should reach a wide audience. It is being live-streamed for free tonight at 7.20 on multiple platforms including hampsteadtheatre.com and youtube.com/hampsteadtheatre. No doubt Chinese government officials will be watching it with keen interest. #aiww: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, Hampstead Theatre, review - Telegraph ************************************* while these type of plays is par for the course in democracies, it will surely not be appreciated by the Communist Chinese and the Chinese Govt, which avoid publicity of the horrors that they perpetuate in the name of Public Security. I am sure the Chinese Govt would lose face because of this play and will surely try some retribution.