Director: Carly Wijs
Reviewer: David Doyle
In 2004 a group of terrorists took over a school in Beslan. The siege that resulted saw over 1100 people including almost 800 children held hostage. Pictures of the event travelled around the world and elicited universal condemnation. Such an event might seem like an odd basis for a show for young audiences but in the hands of BRONKS, a Belgian theatre company, it feels like a necessary story to explore.
Told through the eyes of the children at the heart of the siege, using a blend of storytelling, theatre, and dance, the performance charts the days of the siege from the normal school day through to the final moments of captivity. At the heart of the piece are two wonderful performances from Gytha Parmentier and Roman Van Houtven, who wonderfully capture the spirit of the children caught up in the siege. They manage to craft performances that capture something far beyond the specific environments of the siege. They create a story that is as much about what it means to be a child as it is about tragedy.
As well as wonderful performances, the piece offers a simple yet wonderfully executed design. A flurry of ropes, chalk, and balloons capture the world of the school in a way that is both playful and deeply moving. The playfulness that is inherent throughout the piece is what elevates it to a truly great piece of theatre.
Us / Them is an extraordinary piece of theatre that manages to deal with a tragedy in a way that is sensitive, deeply moving, and important. In a world in which images of terrorism are so prevalent, Us / Them offers an alternative look at it, and one that lives long in the memory afterwards.
Runs until 28 August 2016 (not 8, 15, 22)