Us / Them
Quietly harrowing but even-handed show on terrorism and young people
This article is from 2016.
A kids' show about terrorism. Specifically, the 2004 Beslan school siege, in which Chechen terrorists killed almost 400 people, many of them small children. Brussels-based theatre company BRONKS are nothing if not ambitious in Us / Them – some might even say foolhardy. What they've come up with, though, is a remarkable piece of theatre – powerful and quietly shocking, certainly, but also one that dares to be entertaining and absurd, even playful.
And to call it kids' theatre is really doing it a disservice – Us / Them's theatrical inventiveness and refusal to sugarcoat its tough themes make it a provocative show for any age. Expert young actor/dancers Gytha Parmentier and Roman Van Houtven chalk out the school layout on the stage, tie an intricate spider's web of rope and balloons to represent the terrorists' tripwires and bombs. And they take us, with relentless care, through the harrowing events of the siege's three days as seen through the uncomprehending eyes of small children, their increasing dehydration only adding to the show's growing sense of unreality.
They don't justify or condemn, merely bear witness, and the show's remarkable even-handedness towards the seige's victims and perpetrators alike is one of its great strengths. And BRONKS's refusal to give into sentimentality or hysteria makes the impact of Us / Them all the more potent.
Summerhall, 5–28 Aug (not 15, 22), 10am, £10 (£8).