I Wish To Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide

by Neil McPherson

21 April - 16 May 2015

“Who, after all, today remembers the annihilation of the Armenians? ” – Adolf Hitler, 1939

The world premiere

I Wish To Die Singing won the Best Play Award in UK Studio Theatre Awards 2016.

An excerpt from the play was also performed in Los Angeles in April 2015 starring Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Shohreh Aghdashloo.

Commemorating the centenary of the Armenian genocide, the world premiere of a documentary drama.

“On the night of Saturday, April 24th 1915, the Armenians of Constantinople were snoring in a calm sleep – exhausted from their Easter celebrations – while in the Central Police Station a secret project was in motion…”

The Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century, perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish Government against the Armenians, a Christian minority in a Muslim state. One and a half million people died.

The word ‘genocide’ itself was invented by Raphael Lemkin in 1943 to describe the events of 1915. Adolf Hitler used the Armenian Genocide as a direct inspiration for the Holocaust during the Second World War.

To this day, the Turkish government refuses to admit that any genocide ever took place.

Commemorating the exact centenary of the deportations that began the Armenian Genocide, I Wish To Die Singing – Voices From The Armenian Genocide is a controversial documentary drama uncovering the forgotten secrets and atrocities of a denied genocide – featuring eye-witness reportage, images, music, poetry from Armenia’s greatest poets, and verbatim survivors testimonies from one of the greatest historical injustices of all time.

About The Playwright Neil McPherson

Playwright Neil McPherson is Artistic Director of the Finborough Theatre. An earlier version of I Wish to Die Singing was presented for a sold out short run at the Finborough Theatre in 2005 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and received a staged reading at the Centre for Armenian Information and Advice, London, in 2006.

About The Director Tommo Fowler

Director Tommo Fowler returns to the Finborough Theatre where he directed Obama-ology and was Resident Assistant Director at the Finborough Theatre working on Sommer 14: A Dance of Death and Harajuku Girls. Trained with Living Pictures and on the Short Course at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Direction includes Monster Party (Arcola Theatre), Vesting Day (Southwark Playhouse), a staged reading of Wake (English Touring Theatre Studios), The Repast, Porcelain, Just Say No (Theatre503), The (Accidental) Execution of Alan Bishop (Pleasance London) and Extremely Brief and Violent (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). Assistant Direction includes Handel Furioso (Arcola Theatre and National Tour), Rainbow (Edinburgh Festival and winner of Fringe First Award) and Mojo Mickybo (Old Red Lion Theatre). Dramaturgy includes Rumpy Pumpy (King’s Head Theatre and Tour) and No Border, an intranational verbatim theatre project.

The Great War 100

THEGREATWAR100 series is a new occasional series of works about – or written during – the Great War to be presented by the Finborough Theatre from 2014 to 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

The Press on I Wish To Die Singing

“90 minutes of continuously compelling theatre.” Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide.

“Powerful...a searing account of the Armenian genocide.” Michael Billington, The Guardian.

“Vivid and merciless...simple, moving and very powerful.” Aleks Sierz, The Stage.

“Powerful and controversial” Mersa Auda, The Upcoming.

“Moving and shocking... There is no questioning its power and importance.” Gerald Berkowitz, TheatreGuideLondon

“Powerful...This arresting production” Bill Hagerty, Hammersmith Today.

“Well-rounded and extremely powerful.” Mayer Wakefield, Morning Star.

“This sobering piece of documentary theatre...” There Ought To Be Clowns.

“A powerful, intense and necessary production.” Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network.

“The play’s value is undeniable...A true example of activist theatre.” Chelsey Pippin, Everything Theatre.

“This is no tedious lecture but a real drama that gives the victims a voice through the mouths of individual characters.” Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide.

“Beautifully interwoven narratives...It is a story that I didn’t know told in an inventive and heart breaking way, informative and emotional.” Kieran Knowles, The Good Review.

“Their story told compassionately but clear-sightedly.” There Ought To Be Clowns.

“Intense...The verbatim testimony of the victims are the strongest, most affecting part of the play.” Traffic Light Theatregoer.

“Agitprop is a term that seems to have dropped out of use...Yet artistic director Neil McPherson, whose small and feisty Finborough Theatre at Earls Court receives no public funding whatsoever, has never pandered to delicate West London sensibilities, and I Wish to Die Singing: Voices from the Armenian Genocide, scripted by him, certainly doesn’t flinch from its task. This is, no less, to fill a gaping hole in the official history of the 20th century.” Jenny Gilbert, The Arts Desk.

“These voices from the Armenian genocide in I Wish to Die Singing cannot but shock and overwhelm. The sheer depth of brutality and cruelty...defy description except here they are described and with a quiet understatement that makes them all the more appalling.” Carole Woddis, London Grip.

“Neil McPherson knows how to create a play which keeps our interest and makes us care about these events without being heavy handed.” Lizzie Loveridge, Curtain Up.

“Neil McPherson’s purposeful and necessarily partisan documentary drama piece” Traffic Light Theatregoer.

“A desperate story of loss of culture, identity, displacement and secrecy... For not the first time, Finborough’s Neil McPherson is leading the way with this much belated but timely homage to an almost forgotten people.” Carole Woddis, London Grip.

“Neil McPherson employs documentary drama, and to shocking effect... The convention of delivering verbatim texts proves extraordinarily powerful.” Judi Herman, Jewish Renaissance

“This is gripping theatre not just because it is telling a powerful story but because McPherson makes these people share with us and Tommo Fowler’s direction puts that contact at the heart of his production.” Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide.

“McPherson and the Finborough, where he is artistic director, must be congratulated on playing their part in demanding long overdue recognition for the terrible fate of those 1.5 million Armenians as genocide.” Judi Herman, Jewish Renaissance

“McPherson’s play, soberly directed by Tommo Fowler and well acted by a seven-strong cast including Tom Marshall, Tamar Karabetyan and Simon Yadoo...movingly achieves what it sets out to do.” Michael Billington, The Guardian.

“Tom Marshall is heart-breaking.” There Ought To Be Clowns.

“An affecting performance by Tom Marshall” Traffic Light Theatregoer.

“Horrors unfold calmly in Tom Marshall’s slow, sustained account of his character’s experience” Timothy Ramsden, Reviews Gate.

“Tom Marshall stuns with an eviscerating monologue from a survivor...At the end, he mumbles: ‘I don’t know why you need to hear this.’ But we do need to hear this story – we really, really do.”” Miriam Gillinson, Time Out.

“[Tom Marshall gives] a performance that is especially moving among actors who give their characters a touching reality." Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide.

“Kate Binchy and Tamar Karabetyan combine to extraordinary effect.” There Ought To Be Clowns.

“Impressively played by Jilly Bond.” Carole Woddis, London Grip.

“Narrated with lucid authority by Jilly Bond” Judi Herman, Jewish Renaissance

“Plenty of powerful moments - Bevan Celestine and Tamar Karabetyan are strong as children caught in the horrors” Partially Obstructed View

“I particularly enjoyed Bevan Celestine’s portrayal of the young man, he had a lovely honest delivery style” Kieran Knowles, The Good Review.

“The harrowing testimonies of survivors delivered candidly by Tamar Karabetyan, Bevan Celestine and Siu-See Hung are particularly disturbing” Mayer Wakefield, Morning Star.

“The seven-strong ethnically-mixed, colour blind cast...give the stories a universal appeal” Traffic Light Theatregoer.

“Tamar Karabetyan, Siu-See Hung and Bevan Celestine movingly convey the child-like direct observation that represents so much sorrow. It’s all the more moving because the three also represent different cultural backgrounds.” Judi Herman, Jewish Renaissance

“A talented cast of seven delivers the message with sledgehammer effect.” Bill Hagerty, Hammersmith Today.

“Tommo Fowler’s...intense production.” Mayer Wakefield, Morning Star.

“Tommo Fowler’s strong and often uncomfortable production features a multiracial and inclusive cast, who all work hard, playing multiple roles.” Aleks Sierz, The Stage

“Told by director Tommo Fowler with admirable restraint.” Carole Woddis, London Grip.

“Director Tommo Fowler keeps the story moving forward while giving each speaker and episode its due, and the actors create rounded instant characterisations.” Gerald Berkowitz, TheatreGuideLondon.

“Director Tommo Fowler steers his dedicated cast through a chilling 90 minutes on Phil Lindley’s appropriately minimalist set. Rob Mills brooding lighting and Max Pappenheim’s intricate soundscape add to the atmosphere of menace” Judi Herman, Jewish Renaissance

“A huge contribution from Max Pappenheim’s sound design” Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide.

“Phil Lindley's design, incorporating Rob Mills' beautiful video work, works well at allowing the committed company of seven to pay quiet but focused tribute.” There Ought To Be Clowns.

“As Rob Mills’ video keeps adding to the story in Armenian script, and a daily update of events is provided, this production forcefully repudiates Hitler’s claim that nobody remembers the Armenians. For anyone seeing this Finborough show surely will.” Timothy Ramsden, Reviews Gate.

“It asks the audience at the end...to take action into their own hands by signing the petition for recognition. The biggest compliment to the piece I can pay, is that I signed it.” Kieran Knowles, The Good Review.

“The evening ends on a justifiable note of outrage. You leave the theatre with a soul full of anger.” Aleks Sierz, The Stage.

“Go see I Wish to Die Singing – the title is taken from work by the Armenian poet known as Siamanto, tortured and murdered in 1915 – and make up your own mind. The cast...will send you into the spring evening with a sad song of compassion in your heart.” Bill Hagerty, Hammersmith Today.

Press Resources

Production press release available here.

Production images available here.

21 April - 16 May 2015

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm
Sunday 3:00pm

90 minutes with no interval