Is it possible to make an audience laugh when you portray the worst of human nature? In 2004 Islamic extremists took hostage over 3000 children at a school on the Russian border with Chechyna. You may remember it in the news. More than 300 children died in he carnage of booby trap bombs shooting collapsing building and general mayhem that lasted over 3 days.
And this is what the play is about. Yet we laughed, we tittered, the actors played with chalks, twine, and balloons- arguing over the chalked up diagrams of the layout of the school for the first ten minutes or so- dance and physical theatre developing themes of division and misunderstanding, sexual difference and hierarchy which carried on throughout.
The booby traps and wires entangled with a web of string through which the actors danced and writhed; helium filled balloons’ long string tails hung down into empty space, question marks punctuating the 3-D space and bombs exploded as they were punctured.
The sheer energy expended in dance and movement and the raw emotions of channeling young people dealing with an impossible situation, expecting to be rescued by their fathers on tractors with axes and knives, was almost exhausing to watch. You know the outcome is set yet you wait hoping they will survive.
The smallest of gestures – the line of blood running down a cheek, to the drama of the terrorists changing position every two hours- so poignantly expressed. There were moments when I had to remind myself this is theatre-the subtlety of control of movement more akin to dance than theatre.
The production is created by a young people’s theatre company in Ghent. Now I like Ghent-even though it poured with rain all the time I was there… but now I would rather like to live there a while, if only to see a lot more work of this remarkable standard.