Moscow Stage Siege Victims Defend London PlayDate: 27 September 2006
The mother of one of the victims of the 2002 Moscow theatre siege has lambasted London theatre critics for their response to In Your Hands, a new play about the atrocity. Written by the Russian-born Natalia Pelevine, the play premiered on 13 September 2006 at north London’s New End Theatre, where it continues until 15 October (See News, 31 Aug 2006).
According to Tatiana Karpova, critics should be “ashamed” of themselves for writing negative reviews, which are putting audiences off seeing the play and being reminded of “our tragic story”.
On 23 October 2002, heavily armed Chechen rebels stormed a sell-out performance of the musical Nord Ost and took more than 600 theatregoers, cast, crew and theatre staff hostage, threatening to blow up the building unless Russian troops were withdrawn from Chechnya. After 57 hours, the siege ended when Russian special forces gassed and raided the building. It later transpired that the fatalities – an estimated 120 hostages and all 42 terrorists – were a result of the raid rather than actions taken by the rebels.
Told from the perspective of two women, one terrorist and one hostage, In Your Hands is based on extensive research, including interviews with hostages and witnesses. The play, which has been banned in Russia, is dedicated to all those who lost their lives in this and other terrorist attacks.
Despite such good intentions, however, critics were underwhelmed by the piece. In his two-star review, Whatsonstage.com’s Michael Coveney deemed it “a pedestrian account” of the Moscow tragedy with “gaping holes throughout”… “leavened with some nasty shock tactics … and snippets of conversation between hostages and Chechens”.
However, Karpova - writing from Russia on behalf of victims’ families, who set up the Non-Government Organisation NORD-OST in the aftermath of the event – believes that Pelevine and director Julian Woolford have got it right in “their deep understanding of our suffering, compassion and bravery in staging In Your Hands”. As for the play’s detractors: “We are ashamed of those who wrote negative reviews of this play. We are ashamed of those who found that which tore our hearts laughable.”
- by Terri Paddock
The full text of Tatiana Karpova’s letter, sent to Whatsonstage.com this week, follows:
Dear Critics and Journalists reviewing the staging of the play In Your Hands,
We, the victims of the terrorist attack in the Moscow theatre during the performance of the musical Nord-Ost on 23-26 October 2002, we who lost our children, our loved ones, we who have been taken hostage and went through the gassing and endured the shock and nervous breakdowns would like to say the following:
We, like no one else, know what terrorism is, know how hard it is to bury our children, know what it is to become an invalid at the age of 20. It has almost been four years since the tragedy on Dubrovka where we lost 130 people and 79 children were left orphans. Time, however, has not healed our wounds.
Earlier this year Natalia Pelevine came to see us, the victims and relatives, in Moscow and asked for our permission in the staging of In Your Hands. Having read the play, we collectively voted in favour of staging the play in London.
A group of us (relatives of perished hostages) travelled to London for the premiere of the play. We cried during the performance, experiencing what our children must have endured when they were taken hostages on a night out to see a musical. The dialogues of the actors sitting among us, the audience, were reflective of the dialogues of the real hostages.
It must be hard for critics and journalists to imagine what was going on in our hearts when we were sitting through this production. For the last four years of our lives, we have constantly been reliving those 57 final hours that our loved ones went through before they died. During the performance of In Your Hands at the New End Theatre, we re-experienced the horrifying event that has shattered our lives.
We bow down to the author Natalia Pelevine, director Julian Woolford, the entire cast and all those at the New End Theatre for their deep understanding of our suffering, compassion, and bravery in staging In Your Hands on their London stage. We are ashamed of those who wrote negative reviews of this play. We are ashamed of those who found that which tore our hearts laughable.
Terrorism should not have a place on earth.
In order for no one to go through the pain we have, no one to know what a terrorist attack is, terrorism needs to be talked about, written about and plays about terrorism need to be staged.
Thank you for In Your Hands.
Tatiana Karpova, mother of victim Alexander Karpov, on behalf of the families of those who died during the Moscow theatre siege.