The arrest of Ai Weiwei – one of the most attention-grabbing pieces of news to come out of China in recent years – is now being turned into art at the Hampstead Theatre in London. Weiwei, who is probably among the best-known visual artists in the world at the moment is behind the infamous Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium in Beijing, as well as the eyecatching sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern. However, the artist is also known for his dissent to the Chinese communist regime and his subsequent arrest back in 2011.

Benedict Wong, Collabor8te Connected by NOKIA Premiere
Benedict Wong plays Weiwei on the Hampstead stage. 

Now, his story has been adapted for the stage by James McDonald, The Metro reports. The production brings an unexpected amount of humor and wit to the events. The part of Weiwei is filled by Benedict Wong, who is already receiving glowing praise for his portrayal, which manages to do away with any martyrdom and cut straight to the core of Weiwei’s story.

The production is very minimal. The set intentionally resembles an art installation itself, as a clever callback to Weiwei’s work, but also as a mechanism of exposing the hypocrisy of communism. A large, initially closed wooden container Takes centre stage and folds out to suggest different locations, while spectators (described in the programme as Netizens, in a nod to Ai’s canny use of social media) sit silently on either side of the stage. It’s a cleverly designed and well executed tribute to Weiwei’s subversive art, suggesting that the artist’s arrest may just be his most influential work.