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An escape into imagination


Carly Wijs

1 September 2004. It is the first day of school in Beslan, a quiet town in North Ossetia, part of the Russian federation. Chechen rebels force their way into a school and hold more than a thousand pupils, teachers and parents hostage inside the gymnasium. Three days later the siege comes to a horrendous conclusion: 334 people are killed by bullets and explosives. More than half of the victims are children.

A remarkable piece of theatre – playful, surprisingly and painfully funny as well as moving
The Guardian

In the children’s play ‘Us/Them’ Carly Wijs lets two surviving school children speak. A girl and a boy try to describe the three days of the siege in as much detail as possible to get to grips with the terrible events. Painstakingly, the children chalk a plan of the school on the floor. But before long, their imagination takes over. As they carefully move among the wires strung up by the hostage-takers, these now turn into an obstacle course from their gym class. Balloons become bombs and the terrorist invasion transforms into a heroic scene from an action film. Both level-headed and precise, as well as stubborn and playful, the two exorcise their fears by escaping into the imaginary. This is a play that will make a lasting impression on children and adults alike.

The Beslan massacre is given such bold, off-centre treatment in Carly Wijs’s production that it inspires much deeper consideration.
The Times

Photo © Bronks