July to September 2012 | July to September Season

-  Stories from the Syrian Revolution

Edited by Zoe Lafferty from interviews conducted by Ruth Sherlock, Paul Wood and Zoe Lafferty

Tuesday, 17 July – Saturday, 11 August 2012

The World Premiere

★★★★★ Five Stars, The Public Reviews 
★★★★★ Five Stars, The Good Review
★★★★ Four Stars, The Telegraph
★★★★ Four Stars, The Independent 
★★★★ Four Stars, Exeunt 
★★★★ Four Stars, Time Out Critics' Choice
★★★★ Four Stars, Metro
★★★★ Four Stars, OneStopArts
★★★★ Four Stars, London Theatre Reviews

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For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here

The most dangerous thing you can do in this country is speak the word freedom

The world premiere of a new play based entirely on verbatim reports from inside Syria itself...

As thousands have been tortured, jailed, maimed or killed by the Syrian regime, The Fear of Breathing is a hard-hitting evocation of a life or death fight for freedom, experienced from the inside.

To uncover these personal stories from the uprising, award-winning journalists Paul Wood of the BBC and Ruth Sherlock of The Daily Telegraph, together with theatre director Zoe Lafferty, travelled into Syria covertly, circumventing the ban on journalists and restrictions on movement for all non-Syrians. Immersed in Syria's suffocating environment of oppression and fear, they spoke to protesters facing tanks and guns, soldiers who deserted to form the Free Army, activists who dream of change, as well as citizens who love President Bashar al-Assad and are terrified of a future without him.

Featuring verbatim scenes, interviews, stories and film footage, The Fear of Breathing is a powerful and profoundly disturbing portrait of a revolution struggling to survive.


Writer/Journalist Ruth Sherlock has just been named ‘Young Journalist of the Year’ in the 2012 British Press Awards. The judges praised her "astonishing collection of work" during the Arab Spring, showing "skill as well as courage" to produce a series of "harrowing" accounts. She has spent most of the past year living with fighters on the frontlines in Libya and more recently has been working undercover in Syria. She reported on Egypt, Libya and Syria for The TelegraphThe Sunday TimesThe ScotsmanThe Los Angeles Times and Al Jazeera. She has been nominated for the prestigious Gaby Rado Memorial Award, given by Amnesty International for outstanding coverage of human rights.


Writer/Journalist Paul Wood has covered a dozen wars in fifteen years as a BBC foreign correspondent. He was in Baghdad for the invasion of Iraq and in Fallujah during the battle for the city. In Iraq, he and his team filmed from inside a crowd hit by multiple suicide bombs, for which he won a Golden Nymph at the Monte Carlo Television Festival and the Bayeux Award for War Correspondents. He travelled behind Serbian lines with Kosovar guerrillas in the 1999 NATO bombing and has also reported on conflicts in Bosnia, Macedonia, Chechnya, Darfur, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan and Libya.  During the Syrian uprising, he was three times smuggled across the border and into the city of Homs and produced Homs – Journey into Hell for BBC’s Panorama. For the theatre, he co-wrote Off Record with Zoe Lafferty.


Editor/Director Zoe Lafferty has worked as a director, assistant director and playwright for theatre in Afghanistan, the UK, New York, Palestine and Europe, and is an Associate Director of the Freedom Theatre Palestine. Trained at Drama Centre, London, and the Vaktangov Theatre School, Moscow. Theatre includes the world premiere of Bola Agbaje’s Concrete Jungle (Riverside Studios and Tobacco Factory), Gaza: Breathing Space (Soho Theatre), Sho Khman? (Freedom Theatre Palestine and International Tour), Alice in Wonderland (Freedom Theatre Palestine), Adult Child /Dead Child (Edinburgh Festival and Unicorn Theatre) and Not a Step Back (Cochrane Theatre). Assistant Direction includes The Dresser (Watford Palace Theatre), Waiting For Godot (Freedom Theatre Palestine and American Tour), Protozoa (The Red Room) and Oikos (The Red Room). She co-wrote Off Record with Paul Wood, a verbatim piece on the Israeli/Palestine conflict, performed at the Soho Theatre with Harriet Walter, Jennie Stoller, Hilton McRae and Madeline Appiah.


Scott Ainslie At the Finborough Theatre, Scott appeared in The Captive (2010), Witchcraft (2008) and A Letter to England (2007). Theatre includes The Old Wives’ Tale (Shakespeare’s Globe), Seven Deadly Sins and Measure for Measure (Arcola Theatre), Song of Deborah (The Lowry, Manchester), Escape Stories (Soho Theatre), A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Original Shakespeare Company National Tours), Bring Me Sunshine (Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh), Medea and This to This (Union Theatre), Of Mice and Men (Shaw Theatre), Les Miserables (Palace Theatre), Great Expectations, Evita and Aspects of Love (National Tours), A Light Gathering of Dust (Edinburgh Festival) and Twelfth Night (National Tour).   Film includes Citizen V Kane (winner of the Prix Canal Plus-Clermont-Ferrand 2009), There’s No ‘I’ in Team, Little Deaths, 500 Miles North and Zombie Diaries. Television includes Stockwell, Son of Sam, EastEnders and Much Ado About Something.  

David Broughton-Davies At the Finborough Theatre, David appeared in The Druid's Rest (2009). Trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Theatre includes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Royal Shakespeare Company), Romeo and Juliet (The Young Vic), The Devil Inside Him (White Bear Theatre), The Wizard of Oz (Oldham Coliseum Theatre), The Devils (Union Theatre) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (English Shakespeare Company). David has also worked extensively with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Film includes Lovely Monster, The House of Angelo, The Calling, the forthcoming The Manual OXV  and Shoot Me. Television includes Shameless, Go Greek for a Week, Londoners and Casualty.

Paul Cawley At the Finborough Theatre, Paul appeared in The Potting Shed (2010 and 2011). Trained at the Drama Studio.  Theatre includes The Bohemians (Etcetera Theatre), Once in a Lifetime (National Theatre), Troy (National Theatre Studio), The Wideness of the Sea (Arcola Theatre), No Shame, No Fear (Jermyn Street Theatre),  Electra(Gate Theatre), Partytime and One for the Road (BAC),  Have I None (Southwark Playhouse),  Humble Boy (Gielgud Theatre), Arsenic and Old Lace (Strand Theatre), The Man Who Came to Dinner and The Recruiting Officer (Chichester Festival Theatre), Lovers and Songs from the Left Bank (Minerva Theatre, Chichester), Journey’s End (King's Head Theatre),  Dicing with Death (Edinburgh Festival and Lyric Hammersmith Studio) and Guards, Guards (National Tour). Film includes Swinging with the Finkels, Stitched,  Black Circle and Problem. Television includesThe Wrong Mans, EastEnders,Spooks, My Family, The Bill, Babes in the Wood,Frank Stubbs Promotes and Numbertime.
Gareth Glen At the Finborough Theatre, Gareth appeared in The Captive (2010), What Every Woman Knows (2010) and Jamie the Saxt (2007). Trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Theatre includes The Real Thing (Bristol Old Vic), A View from the Bridge and Romeo and Juliet (Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh), The Riot Act (Gate Theatre) and Supply (Paines Plough). Film includes Don’t Be a Victim. Television includes Casualty, River City, Low Winter Sun, Sea of Souls, Ghost Squad, Taggart, Foyle’s War, Holby City and Rockface.
Nicholas Karimi At the Finborough Theatre, Nicholas appeared in Outward Bound (2012) and I was a Beautiful Day (2009).  Trained at Rose Bruford College. Theatre includes Damascus, Aleppo (National Theatre of Scotland at Òran Mór and Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh), War Horse (National Theatre and West End), Macbeth (National Theatre), Nova Scotia and The Pearlfisher (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh), Mother Courage (BenchTours), Mountain Language (BAC), The Dead Fiddler (New End Theatre, Hampstead) and The Emperor Jones (Gate Theatre).
Sirine Saba Trained at RADA. Theatre includes Scorched (Old Vic Tunnels), Nation and Sparkleshark (National Theatre), Testing the Echo (Out of Joint and Tricycle Theatre), Baghdad Wedding (Soho Theatre), Midnight’s Children, Pericles, The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, Beauty and the Beast, Tales from Ovid, A Warwickshire Testimony and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night (Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park) and Cinderella (Bristol Old Vic).
Television includes I am Slave, Doctors, Silent Witness, Footballers’ Wives andThe Bill.
Radio includes Marley is Dead, My Daughter the Racist, From Fact to Fiction, Arabian Afternoons, English in Afghanistan, The Locust and The Bird, Beirut Days, Baghdad Wedding and Love and Loss. 

John Wark At the Finborough Theatre, John played the title role in Jamie The Saxt (2007). Trained at RADA. Theatre includes Dog in the Manger, Tamar’s Revenge and Pedro, the Great Pretender (Royal Shakespeare Company), Tamburlaine (Bristol Old Vic and Barbican Theatre), Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us (National Theatre of Scotland at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh), The Winter Guest (Almeida Theatre) and The Only Girl in the World – A Play of Jack The Ripper (Arcola Theatre). Film includes Breaking the Waves, The Oxford Murders, Late Night Shopping and Within the Woods. Television includes Robin Hood, Taggart and G-Force.

Adam Youssefbeygi Trained at the Arts Educational Schools. Theatre includes Royal Shakespeare Company Opening Event (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Oresteia Trilogy (Riverside Studios), Victoria, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Private Lives, The Cherry Orchard and Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me (Arts Educational Schools). Television includes The Innocent Project. 


“Powerful weapons against oppression that open new spaces for imagining a different future.”Al Jazeera

“Intensely physical, highly stylised, no doubt of the power of the material, nor the conviction of the actors themselves. The scenes not only represent historic events but a nightmarish mind scape of fear, intimidation and violence.” BBC

“Conceptually bold and visually stimulating ... both empowering and thought provoking.”Counterpunch on Alice in Wonderland

“This is a dangerous play with subversive messages” Haaretz on Alice in Wonderland

“A company to be reckoned with.” Edinburgh Guide

“Sensitive...chilling...compassionate” British Theatre Guide



“Extraordinary, haunting reporting in Syria.” The Guardian

“Superlative reporting from Homs deserves every award.” Benedict Brogan, The Daily Telegraph

“Memorable reports.” Bill Neely, ITN

“Brilliant reporting from inside Homs.’ Ramita Naval, Channel Four

“The BBC should…trumpet the achievements of superb journalists such as Paul Wood.”The Observer

“All praise to Paul Wood of the BBC.’ Robert Fisk, The Independent



“Essential viewing.”  Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph 

“A great production of a truly relevant play...This play must not be missed.”  Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network

“I can’t remember a piece of documentary theatre that has arrived with such remarkable dead-on timing as The Fear of Breathing – an insiders’ view of Syria, and another coup for the plucky little Finborough in Earls Court.”  Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph 

“The Finborough is keeping time with real life in this harrowing verbatim piece" Tom Wicker, Time Out 

“A documentary account of courage being shown in one of the most terrifying situations in any country today. And yesterday; and tomorrow; it’s that current.”  Timothy Ramsden, Reviewsgate 

“Rarely has theatre responded so swiftly to pressing current events as with the production of the play The Fear of Breathing.”  Noam Schimmel, The Majalla

“The most powerful, chilling and thought provoking piece of theatre on stage now...Fast paced, devastating and utterly captivating.”  Sarah Nutland, The Public Reviews 

“ “Fearless” is a word bandied about too much in the field of new playwriting, often meaning little more than the mild bucking of some trend. But genuine courage went into the compiling of The Fear of Breathing – Stories from the Syrian Revolution. Journalists Paul Wood and Ruth Sherlock, along with the play’s director, Zoe Lafferty, took the risk of conducting interviews with people from the uprising who could give us all lessons in bravery.”  Paul Taylor, The Independent 

“To have such an abundance of firsthand accounts from a place of conflict like Syria is a testament to the tenacity and bravery of Sherlock, Wood and Lafferty as well as those they interviewed, and this production is an important piece of historical documentation, performed with sensitivity and passion.”  Anna Jones, The British Theatre Guide 

"Hearing the words of victims and freedom fighters spoken by a talented, impassioned cast in the intimate space of the Finborough is the point...An electrifying, visceral experience.”  Tom Wicker, Time Out

“A brave and important contribution to better understanding the darkness that is continuing to envelope Syria.”  James Denselow, The London Magazine 

“Interventionist theatre is a rare bird, but at the Finborough we are confronted with a refracted fragment of the horrific drama unfolding in Syria...A tight, forceful dramatisation.”  John Green, Morning Star 

“We may have become accustomed to watching the scenes of the Syrian revolution unfold on our television screens, but the play lays these events at our feet and the players deliver them directly to us.”  Sandra Lawson, Plays To See

“A hard-hitting, upsetting and informative production...It’s an incredibly powerful piece.”  Natasha Tripney, The Stage 

“Gripping...This gutsy and evocative play.”  Sarah Nutland, The Public Reviews 

“It’s easy to feel removed from the situation in Syria as you watch or read news reports on television or the internet. This play strips away that distance by removing language and accent barriers and you witness the stories inches away; human to human.”  Sarah Nutland, The Public Reviews 

“This play battered and bruised me like no play I’ve seen before...I feel perversely elated that there is theatre out there, slowly bubbling to the surface, that addresses the ‘unbearable’.”  Laura Wells, The Good Review 

“This is theatre that demands our participation; a fusion of journalism and art that, because it can’t be dismissed as fiction, demands our active empathy.  It is theatre we can’t afford to miss.”  Laura Wells, The Good Review 

“This genuinely enlightening and horrifying piece unfolds as a mix of direct-to-audience testimony; TV footage of the fighting; and nerve shredding portrayals of the torture.”  Paul Taylor, The Independent 

“The testimonies are harrowing, frightening, distressing, and startlingly direct...It leaves a searing mark on its audience, making it impossible to be unaffected by these testimonies.”  Noam Schimmel, The Majalla 

“A play that is less a mediated dramatic production than a direct conduit for the immediate experiences, thoughts, and feelings of Syrians surviving in an atmosphere of constant violence, and political and social collapse...A disturbing, challenging play with ferocious urgency, content, and tone.”  Noam Schimmel, The Majalla 

“An overall sense of intense urgency is woven throughout the 2 hour piece, which moves from the early beginnings of unrest until the recent heavy and continuous violence of the present day.”  Anna Jones, The British Theatre Guide 

“The story of the conflict comes across very clearly thanks to sharp editing combined with a strong sense, from both cast and director, of the natural rhythms of storytelling. The result is an informing and challenging piece of theatre.”  Anna Jones, The British Theatre Guide 

“The verbatim stories are weaved together wonderfully to make a production that forces you to sit up and listen.”  Sarah Nutland, The Public Reviews 

“Zoe Lafferty’s verbatim production, a compilation of stories from the people of Syria, is designed to cut deep. It puts a human face on the current and still evolving crisis.”  Natasha Tripney, The Stage 

“An evening of high calibre performance, displaying rare commitment, passion and conviction.”  John Green, Morning Star 

“The actors portray these courageous people so believably and with such conviction that you are totally absorbed in to their world.” Sarah Nutland, The Public Reviews

“Scott Ainslie as Muhummad, Sirine Saba as the grieving mother and the DJ-Activist, Adam Youssefbeygi as the student and Paul Cawley as the Liverpudlian photographer give outstanding performances as part of a wonderful cast.”  Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network 

“There are memorable individual performances from all cast members, in particular Adam Youssefbeygi as the young university student and activist Quataba and Karimi as the aforementioned leading activist.”  Anna Jones, The British Theatre Guide 

“Well performed by an eight-strong cast, with vital contributions from Scott Ainslie, Adam Youssefbeygi, Sirine Saba and Paul Cawley.”  Michael Billington, The Guardian “Nicholas Karimi..is an intense presence as Omar, a relentless activist.”  Nick 730, Partially Obstructed View 

“Sirine Saba gives a quietly heartbreaking performance as a grieving mother and a very different, likeable turn as a chipper DJ.”  Nick 730, Partially Obstructed View 

“Sirine Saba gives a very moving performance.”  Sarah Nutland, The Public Reviews 

“Played with an incredible weight of reality by Sirine Saba.”  Laura Wells, The Good Review 

“I was also highly impressed with Adam Youssefbeygi, whose portrayal of Quataba, the student turned freedom fighter.”  Sandra Lawson, Plays To See 

“Thanks to Lafferty’s electric staging, eloquent use of video footage, and a particularly harrowing testimony from the photographer who was trapped with journalist Marie Colvin in Homs, it builds to an urgent, confrontational climax.”  Claire Allfree, Metro 

“The director Zoe Lafferty has also provided interview material and shapes the eye-witness collage with a neat feel for structure, a relish for direct address and a gift for bullet-fast pacing.”  Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph 

“Everything works about this play, from the set and soundscape, to the exceptionally compelling nature of the stories.”  Sarah Nutland, The Public Reviews 

“The unadorned highly effective grey-black set is perfectly designed.”  John Green, Morning Star 

“After the new artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre announced that her programming would be very different from her predecessor’s, I was afraid that this would probably mean the end of verbatim theatre in London. But one may never underestimate the Finborough Theatre.”  Carolin Kopplin, UK Theatre Network  

“A brave step therefore that the Finborough should stage their current weekday play and with impeccable timing as things have turned out, for people are being killed in their fight for democratic freedom at the very moment you may be watching the production.”  Gareth Richardson, Bargain Theatre 

“It shows enormous enterprise for an unsubsidised theatre to stage a verbatim piece based on reports from inside Syria.”  Michael Billington, The Guardian



Tuesday, 17 July – Saturday, 11 August 2012

Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm.
Sunday Matinees at 3.00pm.
Saturday Matinees 3.00pm (from the second week of the run).

Performance Length: Approximately 2 hours.

17 July - 29 July 2012

Tickets £14, £10 concessions

Except Tuesday Evenings £10 all seats, and Saturday evenings £14 all seats.

Previews (17 and 18 July) £10 all seats.

£5 tickets for Under 30’s for performances from Tuesday to Sunday of the first week when booked online only.

£11 tickets for residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on the first Saturday of the run only.

31 July -11 August 2012

Tickets £16, £12 concessions

except Tuesday Evenings £12 all seats, and Saturday evenings £16 all seats.

For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here



Directed by Zoe Lafferty 

Designed by Philip Lindley

Lighting Design by Miguel Vicente

Sound Design by Edward Lewis and Max Pappenheim

Costume Design by Doris Bartelt

Presented by The Moving Theatre in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.