Kursk - Submarine Drama

This article is from 2009

Kursk - Submarine Drama

Story from the sea

Kirstin Innes discusses realism and responsibility with the director of submarine-set drama Kursk

While Hollywood loves its war stories, theatre and the military have traditionally made uncomfortable bedfellows, if they’ve even got past first base at all. That began to change, certainly on the Fringe, after the invasion of Iraq. Over the past five years, the military drama has rather begun to dominate Fringe schedules, whether as realist verbatim theatre, or as an abstracted, imaginative response. Both approaches bring different but equally large responsibilities to their subjects.

Somewhere between both of these lurks Kursk, a new immersive multimedia piece by BAC-affilliated theatre company Sound & Fury. As the title indicates, the play deals with the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk in 2000, a tragedy in which everyone on board died. Although the company have filtered the event through the eyes of a fictional British submarine crew keeping tabs on the Russians, they’ve tried to create as realistic an experience for the audience as possible.

‘We use sound in cinematic detail, to evoke a sense of place and environment,’ says Dan Jones, the company’s director. ‘In the case of a submarine that’s particularly apt because you know a submarine is one of the world’s most sophisticated listening devices. It’s a world where everybody’s acoustic sense has to be heightened in order to survive; it’s a matter of life and death that they listen really carefully to everything that goes on around them.’

The company were also given access to Royal Navy submarines, which their designer has tried to replicate in the Drill Hall.

‘Submariners have to cope with such enormous responsibility in such cramped circumstances. When we got on board we realised that there was an extraordinary tale to tell just about the everyday lives of submariners. In a sense we strove for absolute realism in our set as a benchmark by which the audience can measure the absolute suffering of those submariners who did die in the Kursk, without being voyeuristic about what that suffering involved.’

Kursk, The University of Edinburgh Drill Hall, 556 6550, 20–29 Aug, 10.30pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7.50–£8.50).


  • 4 stars

In collaboration with Bryony Lavery. On the fraying front-line of the cold war a submarine is on patrol silently shadowing its target. Inspired by the Russian submarine disaster of August 2000.