In September 2004, a group of terrorists stormed School Number One in Beslan, Russia, taking hundreds of children, their parents and teachers hostage. The ensuing siege lasted three days and left many dead.
Us/Them is not a straightforward account of this terrible tragedy, but an exploration of the entirely individual way children cope with traumatic situations.
Originally created for BRONKS, a theatre company for young audiences, Us/Them had a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016, winning a Scotsman Fringe First Award, and transferred to the National Theatre, London, in 2017. It was co-produced by BRONKS and Richard Jordan Productions, with Theatre Royal Plymouth and Big in Belgium, in association with Summerhall.
Blog Post: Carly Wijs on tackling taboo subjects in theatre for young people: 'Discussing the topic of terrorism with children is a challenge, but it can be done. And must be done.' Read more >>
'Startlingly powerful… the playfulness has a terrible poignancy... a remarkable, harrowing piece of theatre'
'While this is an unflinching show, it draws its vitality from curious details rather than graphic confrontation… an intriguing, offbeat look at how young people deal with trauma'
'Becomes progressively more heart-rending… makes a deep and moving comment about our reductive assumptions regarding childhood innocence
'In its intricate weave of frontline semi-reportage and slyly subversive comedy, writer-director Carly Wijs allows a sense of play to inform at every turn… a shape-shifting, even ticklish piece that suggests what trauma might look like as it is both experienced and recollected from the inside looking out'
'Funny, devastating… a heartbreaking story about the indomitability of childhood spirit'
'An extraordinarily thoughtful and compassionate play about the way in which the young process trauma and the different filters that children and adults place over the truth… shimmers with a strange double emotional reality, which makes it very funny at times – and awfully painful at others'
'A remarkable piece of theatre – playful, surprisingly and painfully funny as well as moving'
'A truly outstanding piece of theatre for all ages… [makes] an inhuman ordeal somehow understandable, filtered through this very modern, accessible retelling'
'Haunting, unforgettable… the highlight of the Fringe'
'Dazzlingly confident and utterly absorbing… presents [its] story masterfully'
'An innovative piece of theatrical storytelling… the bare facts of this terrible episode are well known, but the story is given such bold, off-centre treatment in [Us/Them] that it inspires a much deeper consideration of the massacre, its context and implications, than a simple dramatisation could hope to achieve'
'Remarkable – powerful and quietly shocking, certainly, but also one that dares to be entertaining and absurd, even playful'
Carly Wijs has written and created plays, and has performed as a film and theatre actress with Wim Vandekeybus/Ultima Vez, Guy Cassiers, Josse De Pauw, De Roovers, KOPERGIETERY, Muziektheater Transparant et al. Her productions have toured internationally. She is regularly invited to be a guest lecturer at the RITS and P.A.R.T.S. (both in Brussels). Her first novel, The Doubtexperiment, was published in May 2016 and nominated for the Flemish debut prize, The Bronze Owl. Her play Us/Them won her an Fringe First at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and transferred to the National Theatre, London, in 2017.