Us/Them at Dorfman Theatre

  • Theatre
Us/Them at Dorfman Theatre


Mon, 30/01/2017 - 13:25


Photo: Murdo Macleod
Photo: Murdo Macleod
30 January, 2017

IT'S hard to imagine how anyone could possibly conceive of, let alone create, a family show from a real-life tragedy that left over 330 dead, including 186 children. And yet that is exactly what writer-director Carly Wijs has done and the resulting piece of theatre, Us/Them, succeeds on numerous levels.

On September 1, 2004, 32 armed Chechen rebels took approximately 1,200 children and adults hostage at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia. The siege ended three days later with numerous dead and more than 700 people wounded.

Wijs claims she was inspired to write about the Beslan siege after her eight-year-old son talked to her about the 2013 terrorist attack in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. She was struck by his matter of fact tone and lack of visible distress when describing the atrocities and realised children process trauma differently from adults. 

This is why she chose to recount the Beslan bloodbath from the perspective of two child hostages –a girl (Gytha Parmentier) and boy (Roman Van Houtven). Their accounts are honest, often humorous, painful and poignant. 

They don’t sit in judgement over the terrorists, but their childish remarks about their Chechen neighbours, “the women have moustaches” and “the men are all paedophiles”, speaks reams about their parents’ prejudices. 

Helium balloons serve as bombs and an enormous cat’s cradle of string represents the wires used to mine the gym where the children are held. It’s a highly physical piece of theatre, perfectly synched, and featuring two remarkable performances. 

Lasting just one hour, this stunning production tackles a difficult subject with great sensitivity and flair.

020 7452 3000

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