Beslan school massacre play in Malta

Emma Micallef

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’ – the 1st September 2004.

Emma Micallef

Balloons are symbolic of Knowledge Day in Russia, as 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.

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.

Director Chiara Hyzler said: “The play struck me when I watched it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016. It was extremely enthralling to see such a horrific event recited from a child’s point-of-view. As a teacher myself, I was highly affected by the trauma following the massacre of a school, which, by its very nature, should be a place of innocence, happiness and safety.”

US/THEM will be the second production by The Shrinking Violets, following their stellar production of Ernest & The Pale Moon in 2017. It is a play that has been performed in several locations around the world, including the United Kingdom, where it transferred to the National Theatre in London following its 2016 debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The play will be staged at The Splendid in Valletta on the 4th, 5th, 7th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th October. Tickets may be purchased online.