18th August 2016 at Summerhall
This production by Belgian art house BRONKS drew my attention as it deals with a topic not usually explored in children's theatre: a terrorist attack. It is based on a true story from 2004 when 1200 children, parents and teachers were taken hostage in their own school in a small town in the Caucasus. Sound like a bundle of laughs? Well actually, quite a few.
The manner in which BRONKS have dealt with this difficult tale is perfect: a chirpy and energetic performance filled with many moments of lightheartedness and comedy to carry the heavy topic. The show was performed by two people, a man and a woman, playing a boy and a girl who were at the school when the terrorists attacked. They report events in a very matter-of-fact fashion, explaining logistical details, whilst also showing their youth and playfulness through song and dance. The point of view is mainly from these two children but also encompasses the families and even attempts to give insight to the inner workings of the terrorists' minds.
I liked the design of the show: it was quite simple and had an effective graphic style. At the start the two children chalk out the floor plan of the school, later, strings are struck up across the stage to create a confusing labyrinth which really heightens the feeling of chaos. Balloons are also used well to convey different objects and meanings from celebratory items to bombs to a lost life.
Overall, I found the performance very moving but not overly sentimental in a soppy way. The balance between joy and sorrow, fun and danger, good and evil was well judged. The audience strongly empathised with the children's struggle to understand why these terrorists had chosen them and became immersed in the confusion. Once again, although this is a production for 12+ there was not a single person under 18 in the audience so I would be very interested to see how young audiences react to this show.