Billed for a family audience, aimed at over-9s, in the 10am slot: Us/Them portays the events of an horrific terrorist attack through the eyes of two children in an enlightening and highly relevant piece of theatre.
Bronks theatre company’s fearless production is based on the tragic day in 2004 when a group of armed terrorists took more than 1200 students and parents hostage in School 1 in Beslan, with the whole performance told from the perspective of two un-named young people. The hostage situation lasted for fifty hours resulting in 334 dead, many of whom were schoolchildren.
A familiar, safe setting – a calm cloakroom with children’s coats carefully hanging up – becomes a gymnasium with three barricaded exits, the whole space commanded by terrorists and laced with explosives. The two performers are incredibly skilled and committed as they relive what happened using a series of maths equations along with the floor plan of the school, physically demonstrating the claustrophobic conditions. Their version is emotionless, as if they are retelling the tale of a friend or family member, rather than recollecting their own account.
This specific event is used to examine storytelling on both small and large scales. The performance explores how the media constructs the news, questions how imagery can be manipulated and skewed for the outside world, and forces us to consider whether we can ever know the ‘truth’. It also probes the stories we are comfortable telling our children, what we want or allow them to hear, and how this measures up to their own experiences of the world. An incredible production brought to Edinbugh as part of the Big in Belgium season, Us/Them is a relevant, thought-provoking and sinister must-see this festival season.