For the first time in Malta, stark memories of the 2004 Beslan school siege will be brought to life in an award-winning play, produced by The Shrinking Violets and directed by Chiara Hyzler. Written by Carly Wijs, US/THEM is an evocative retelling of the real-life events that played out in Beslan – a small town in North-Ossetia, Russia, on ‘Knowledge Day’ – 1 September 2004.
US/THEM is an animated narrative, which illustrates how children often deal with tragedy by reconstructing the events in a manageable way, applying their innocent humour to unspeakable acts. The performers – Maria Buckle and Jacob Piccinino – recount the events that took place over the course of three horrendous days, paying painful attention to detail – from the chalkboard calculations of the death-toll, to the child-like mimicking of the terrorists’ actions – leaving the audience torn between laughter and grief.
Simultaneously, US/THEM also explores the dangers of the ways in which stories are portrayed by the news media. The children recycle the myths that they’ve been fed by reporters about the enemy, while exposing the controversies surrounding the Russian response to the attacks.
Balloons are symbolic of Knowledge Day in Russia, as students and parents gather to celebrate the beginning of a new scholastic calendar, and each student carries balloons to represent the number of years they’ve been in school. But in 2004, the floating balloons acted as the sign for the Chechen separatists to initiate their attack – taking 1,200 people hostage and killing 334 of them, including 186 children – as they demanded independence from the Russian Federation.
US/THEM will be staged at The Splendid, Valletta, over two weekends between the 4-14 October. The shows will be held on Thursday 4 and 11, Friday 5 and 12, and Sunday 7 and 14 October at 8pm, as well as on Saturday 13 October at 7pm and 9pm. For further information and booking, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.