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New play puts Brighton bomber Patrick Magee in spotlight

''The Bombing of the Grand Hotel'' centres on meetings between Magee and the daughter of one of his victims

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The Grand Hotel in Brighton shortly after the bomb exploded
© Simon Dack

A new play premiering in April will explore the unlikely relationship between Brighton bomber Patrick Magee and Jo Berry, whose father was killed in the 1984 blast.

Both Magee and Berry have been involved in the creation of the play, which is co-authored by Julie Everton and Josie Melia and premieres at the Cockpit Theatre on 15 April.

Director Paul Hodson told WhatsOnStage: "I got involved because I was fascinated by the story of two people, who should by all rights hate each other, working together. Jo's father was killed by this man; Pat had such a mission in his heart he was prepared to kill his enemies for his ideals."

Described as "The most shocking attack on the British Government since Guy Fawkes", the bomb was exploded during the Tory party conference on 12 October 1984. The five fatalities included MP Sir Anthony Berry, Jo's father.

"I think an important part of the story and the process is putting yourself in their shoes; would I be able to forgive someone who killed a loved one of mine? I can't imagine," says Hodson.

"But that is what has to be at the heart of any peace process; of any moving on; and that is what Jo did to understand Pat - to put herself in his shoes - not to forgive him - but to understand him."

Rachel Blackman plays Jo Berry, daughter of victim Sir Anthony Berry

'Interesting timing'

Magee, who has expressed remorse for the loss of life during the bombing, and Jo Berry first met in 2000 in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement.

Berry recalled in 2010: "I wanted to meet Pat to put a face to the enemy, and see him as a real human being. At our first meeting I was terrified, but I wanted to acknowledge the courage it had taken him to meet me."

They subsequently kept in touch and have met up many times since, including to mark the 30th anniversary of the bombing in October.

According to publicity material the play will attempt "to map the political pressures and personal triggers surrounding a key moment of extreme public violence," and ask "can personal reconciliation ever make a difference?"

Rachel Blackman will play Berry, with the casting of Magee still to be confirmed.

Hodson points out the "interesting" timing of the production, coming just ahead of the "circus" of a general election. "For us to offer up the issue of Ireland and the Peace Process, and 'dealing with terrorists' into the mix will be very interesting," he added.

The Bombing of the Grand Hotel is at the Cockpit Theatre from 13 April to 2 May 2015


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