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600 theatregoers, cast, crew and theatre staff hostage, threatening to blow up the building unless Russian troops were withdrawn from Chechnya.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. Though endorsed by survivors as well as the Russian Non-Government Organisation of Victims of Terror, the play has been banned in Russia. It is dedicated to all those who lost their lives in this and other terrorist attacks.
The premiere production is directed by Julian Woolford (The Musical of Musicals) and presented by the New End in association with First Act Productions Ltd. Tracy Wilkinson and Laura Dos Cantos play the leads in a cast that also comprises Janie Booth, Edmund Dehn, , Antony Edridge, Les Kenny Green, Mark Jackson, Katy Landis and Clare Wilkie.
In Your Hands is followed, from 16 October to 4 November 2006, by You Might as Well Live: The Untold Story of Dorothy Parker, which transfers to the New End following its premiere at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. In 1927, Parker was at the height of her fame as an American wit, poet and socialite. A year later, she was a radical hothead who smuggled herself into Spain during the civil war and secretly joined the communist party. What sparked the transformation? Pandora Colin stars in the one-woman show that starts in 1927 and ends 40 years later in the same hotel. You Might as Well Live is written by Christian Spurrier, based on an idea by Spurrier and Colin. Tim Roseman directs.
Israeli playwright Hillel Mitelpunkt’s Driver/Painter receives its UK premiere at the New End from 18 October to 5 November 2006. On her return to her now derelict childhood home after a long exile amongst South America’s elite, Mira, an ageing and flamboyant artist, encounters the taciturn and enigmatic Aaron. Instant animosity between two damaged people, who have completely different approaches to life, land and relationships, reveals a common frailty that bonds and unites two opposites. Lee Gilat directs.
The season concludes with the European premiere Oren Safdie’s Private Jokes, Public Places, running from 8 November to 10 December 2006. Margaret, a young Korean-American student, presents her student thesis for a public swimming pool to an all-male jury of famous architects. Safdie, a former architecture student at Columbia University and the son of prominent architect Moshe Safdie, uses this premise as a jumping-off point for an examination of academia, intellectual pretension and the failure of post-modernist culture. Leon Rubin directs.
From 16 to 25 November, German comedy duo Henning Wehn and Otto Kuhnle will also bring their show Four World Cups and One World Pope! to the theatre for late-night performances. Like You Might as Well Live, it was also seen at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
- by Terri Paddock