‘Common people’ – play on whistleblowing

First time in history, a play was performed covering stories of whistleblowers with audience participation in order to educate and  raise awareness.

They were represented from UK, Italy and Romania

The play covered stories of 7 whistleblowers:

Ciro Rinaldi, Ornella Piredda – from Italy

Eileen Chubb, Sharmila Chowdhury and Ian Foxley – from England

Liviu Costache, Alin Goga and Glaudiu Tutulan – from Romania

The play was held at National Radu Stanca theatre in Sibiu,  titled, ‘Oameni Obisnuiti’, which translated means ‘common people’, because the play was about ordinary people who had decided to speak up and as a result faced detriment.

Sibiu is one of the most important cultural centres of Romania and was designated the European Capital of Culture for the year 2007, along with the city of Luxembourg. Formerly the centre of the Transylvanian Saxons, the old city of Sibiu was ranked as “Europe’s 8th most idyllic place to live” by Forbes.

The play was organised by the general manager, Constantin Chiriac and directed by Gianina Cărbunariu

Gianina Cărbunariu (1977) is widely considered the “enfant terrible” of Romanian contemporary drama. She started studying directing in 1999 at the I. L. Caragiale National University of Theatre and Film Arts in Bucharest. Three years after having started her studies, something changed in the Romanian contemporary drama environment. Together with three fellow students, Cărbunariu co-founded a new drama competition that soon became a very interesting platform for new playwrights. This group, called DramAcum, offered a fresh look at Romanian theatre, the strongest since the fall of communism. Not only did DramAcum encourage new dramas, it also resulted in new translations of works written in less widely-circulated European languages.

Cărbunariu’s first play, Stop the Tempo is her most internationally known work and was later considered by critics as “the cream of the generation of new playwrights”.  In 2004, the play was invited to the Wiesbaden Biennale (Germany). Since then, it has been performed on stages in Paris, Berlin, Dublin, New York, Istanbul, Vienna, Nice and Leipzig. Her second play,Kebab, which was initiated at the Royal Court Theatre in London where the artist stayed as an international artist-in-residence, was banned by a private theatre in Bucharest, a few days before the premiere, because of its “indecent language.” After having been supported by the Teatrul Foarte Mic in Bucharest (a group that also encouraged Cărbunariu’s career as a theatre director), Kebab became one of the most frequently toured productions abroad; it caught the attention of theatres around the world, from Japan to the UK and from Denmark to Greece.

Cărbunariu’s name has been consistently put forward by Romanian theatre critics for the Europe Prize for New Theatrical Realities. The artist has has been short-listed by the Romanian media as one of the 100 most influential women in Romanian society today.

SC with Gianina and MihaiSharmila Chowdhury with Gianina Carbunariu – director, and Mihai Pacurar – scenic director 

Three of the stories were those from UK. Two of them were about NHS whistleblowers.

Prior to production, about six months earlier, we were interviewed and videod by the Gianina and the team. So the actors and production had played and replayed our interviews numerous to ensure accuracy of the stories. By the time the play was scheduled, they knew our individual stories almost  as well as us.

I flew out to Sibiu with Ian Foxley. Eileen Chubb was unable to attend.

Once in theatre we were seated and the dialogue of the play had subtitles on the screen with clips of our interviews played out.

It must have been quite nerve wrecking for actors playing the whistleblowers sitting in the audience.

My double in the play was Miriana Mihu. I met with her after the play. It was very emotional for both of us!! Mariana had lived and rehearsed my story so many times for the play – she knew my story inside out. I having someone playing my double and  having my story acted out by an exceptional actress.

 Sharmila with Miriana SC with Marina

Ian Foxley and Sharmila with actors Ioan Paraschiv and Dana Talosian sc ioan dana.jpg

Ioan played the part of Ian Foxley and Dana played Eileen Chubb.

At end of play and after a small break, audience were invited to  put questions to whistleblowers whose stories were covered . Headphones were provided to translate questions put to the panel.




Also present on the stage was Mr Codru Vrabie – who had written the new whistleblowing policy.  http://rai-see.org/whistleblowing/. The audience also asked him questions regarding the new policy.

It was a very open and transparent discussion involving the public, the whistleblowers and the lawyer who had drafted the new policy.

The discussion was moderated by Mr. Constantin Chiriac, the general manager of the Radu Stanca National Theater.

To view the trailer of the play: CLICK HERE

The play was repeated at theatre festival in Sibiu six months later with amazing audience feedback. It was also shown in Vienna.

In UK we have a long way to go in recognising sacrifices made by whistleblowers. Having plays with audience participation is one of the way forward in educating the public.

Maybe one day instead of victimising and dealing out  ‘life sentences’ to whistleblowers, they will be recognised as valuable part of an organisation, where raising concerns is no longer an issue. Eventually whistleblowers will cease to exist as raising complaints will be encouraged and acted on.  

We have however, a very long way to go.





8 thoughts on “‘Common people’ – play on whistleblowing

  1. Brilliant Sharmila!!! so pleased for you and no less than you deserve after everything you have been through. It is heart warming to know that there are still decent people on this planet who are willing to stick their neck out for someone who has suffered appallingly as you and all other whistleblowers have, just for doing the right thing. Telling that it was a Romanian not British theatre company

    What was it like seeing someone else telling your story on the stage?

    Best wishes

    • I was worried that they may not get my story right but they were spot on!!

      They had replayed my video interview over and over again.

      In fact the actors were more anxious than us, having us sitting in the audience.

      They were all wonderful and were emotional when they met us. I suppose to certain extent they had to replay our experiences on stage over and over again.

      I was curious to meet my double. She looked nothing like me – beautiful and younger!! They concentrated on the story which was the main importance.

      • Excellent Sharmila, so glad you enjoyed it and I imagine it must have been a bit odd having a group of people do this, especially after everything you have been through

        You will keep us updated on when it is coming to London? I have an idea of something we could do to help promote it. I’ll email you


  2. How about you write a book, use another name of course, mix fact and some fiction, bit of a love story in there somewhere, it may sell well? Look at call the midwife.

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