|My Theatre Mates|
A family friendly show about a terror attack - doesn't quite add up when you think about it does it? But the more you do, the more you realise that Carly Wijs' direction might just be genius. All too often when we retell moments of our past, we embellish and adapt - particularly when we are children - my nearly-3-yr-old niece would of course deny this entirely.
But when children witness traumatic events, how much of it sinks in? How much do they let it? Kids are more resilient than we think, but they're also like sponges, they take in the world at a rate that dizzies us as adults. So what if, in a place they all feel safe, like at school, they endure something terrible?
Us/Them is directed in a way that addresses this. As we begin with chalk drawings of the school's layout, a competition of information between our two leads and some essential facts to present the provenance of our piece, we are slowly lulled into a comedic security, brimming with innocence.
However, as the piece unfolds we are pulled ever closer to the truth, the REAL terror attack on these young children on a day that held them captive for 52hrs, killing 184 children and 148 adults. But we never really get there, the truth. The truth remains suspended in the well constructed strings that span the stage amidst a maze of conclusions and childhood storytelling.
Our leads are enthusiastic and convincing in their confidence, as well as in their coyness. As they traverse the stage energetically, we are drawn to them even if we never really know much about who they are. Chalk drawings and imaginative commentary provide the basis of the all-too-familiar 'Us and Them' argument, with seemingly no understanding of why 'they' are 'them' and'we' are 'us' - or of why they are being held hostage in their own school.
As a family show, Us/Them definitely helps broach the subject of death in the family if you don't have a pet that's likely to kick-the-bucket anytime soon. But it's also a fun show that incorporates dance with energy that never really allows for sombreness or pain in a concentrated quantity. It's full of imagination, both in script and staging but it's story holds a truth that makes it as devastating as it is entertaining - that is if you take a moment to Google the Beslan Massacre.
Read more about the production and the real event here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/review-usthem-dorfman-national-theatre-london-the-story-of-beslan-makes-for-a-remarkable-harrowing-a7539296.html