Be Silent Or Be Killed

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on BE SILENT OR BE KILLED at the Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, for The Scotsman 9.5.13.
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3 stars ***

THE SHOCKING MUMBAI terror attack of November 2008 – in which almost 200 people died, in a carefullly-planned assault on some of the city’s most famous hotels and public buildings – is an event laden with possible political meanings, and huge global resonances.

It’s worth remembering, though, that for every individual involved in an attack, its meaning is intensely personal. Roger Hunt was a Scottish banker on a business trip to Mumbai in November 2008; and Dave Smith and Euan Martin’s new one-hour play, presented by the north-of-Scotland based Right Lines company, offers a straightforward but intensely vivid retelling of his story of terror and survival, as recounted in his and Kenny Kemp’s book of the same name.

As the show opens, it looks as if it may involve a kind of lecture, a reflection on Roger Hunt’s experience. Within seconds, though, John McGeoch’s set opens up into a vivid reconstruction of the 14th floor room in the Oberoi Hotel where Roger Hunt hid for almost 40 hours, while fire, shootings and bombings raged around him. In his mind and on stage, dreams and memories come and go, including images of his dead brother, of his childhood, of his wife, and, when all else fails, strangely timely memories of Aberdeen’s football team, during its great days under Alex Ferguson.

James Mackenzie replaces an injured colleague to give an eloquent performance as Roger Hunt; Helen Mackay and Ewan Donald offer well-pitched support. And although the conclusions Roger Hunt draws from his ordeal are ordinary to a fault – value your family, and treat every day as a gift – there’s something about the vigour of the storytelling, and the sheer visual and theatrical energy of Ian Grieve’s production, that holds the attention; and encourages us to remember Sir Alex’s unvarying message, as manager of Aberdeen – play to the end, never give up, and never, ever say die.

ENDS ENDS

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