Us/Them is about the Beslan massacre in 2004: a three-day terrorist siege carried out by Chechen rebels at a school in Beslan (in the North Caucusus region) in which over 300 people lost their lives.
This production, created by the Brussels-based BRONKS, tells the story of the siege from the point of view of two children.
It defies all expectations – never feeling macabre, or even sentimental, but instead reconstructing the events with playfulness, humour and a childlike fascination for detail.
The result is something far more impactful and humanising that the usual fare when it comes to telling this kind of story. Its victims are real and recognisable. The inhumanity of the siege is something that, rather than being stated, is left to be discovered by the audience.
Gytha Parmentier and Roman van Houtven’s performances are excellent: full of young vitality and verve, as they chalk out the dimensions of the space on the floor, move between the trip wires, and fill the time with daft antics.
Beneath this all there is a serious point – not just (of course) about the nature of the atrocity, but about the prejudices that helped to create it – the “Us” versus the “Them”. The children’s depiction of the terrorists as bearded women and paedophiles indicates how deep-rooted the divisions and lack of understanding are.