"Us/Them", a child's view in the face of terrorism
Until April 2017, the Flemish Bronks theatre for young people is continuing its tour by presenting its piece Wij/Zij (Us/Them) throughout European cities, in particular in the Scottish capital for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Considered as the largest theatre festival in the world, Fringe takes place every year in August and lasts for 3 weeks.
In a performance filled with emotions, the piece Us/Them recounts the tragic events which took place on the 1st September 2004 in the town of Beslan in the Russian Caucasus. On that date 12 years ago, it was a special day as schools were celebrating "Knowledge Day", an annual celebration which brings children and their close relatives together. The same morning in School Number One in Beslan, a day which was supposed to be joyful, the festivities were interrupted by a group of Chechen terrorists. There ensued a bloody hostage situation which lasted for 3 days and claimed the lives of countless people.
Theatre director Carly Wijs decided to recreate this tragedy from the viewpoint of two children, performed by Gytha Parmentier and Roman van Houtven. It's through their feelings and perspective that the public can "relive" this harrowing experience by switching between moments of humour and fear. How do surviving children manage to carry on with their lives? How can we present this aspect of life to them?
The piece is unique in that it is aimed at a family audience. Children come and see the performance to reflect and react, confronted by such a situation. Their viewpoints and reactions are different to those of adults. The aim of the piece is to have an open ending, so as to continue giving hope to children.
It's not simple portraying a tragedy on this scale. But the Flemish Bronks theatre for young people has achieved this, and has since been overwhelmed with praise. The Guardian gave the performance 5 stars and The Sunday Times 4 stars. On Thursday 18 August, the Belgian theatre company won the award for the most moving production of the festival, which was presented by Summerhall, the Edinburgh arts and events centre. The following day, the company also received the Fringe First Award for outstanding writing.
Additionally, Us/Them was also nominated for the Total Theatre Award which, however, went to another piece. Nevertheless, appearing on this exclusive list made up of the 26 best performances of the Edinburgh festival is already a fantastic achievement.