A new play is using testimonies from victims of terrorist attacks to dramatise what might happen if a plane was brought down in the heart of London.
Playwright Stuart Slade has expertly combined heartbreak, terror and brutality with humour to create BU21, which opens at Theatre 503 in Wandsworth on March 15.
But how does he expertly combine such a contrasting range of emotions in a play that involves a terrorist attack?
‘Dark comedy’ is what 37-year-old Stuart calls his newest production, as he defended the idea of depicting a terrorist attack, saying his desire is not being to sensationalise these incidents.
Instead his idea is to draw on how Londoners – as well as residents of other major world cities – deal with agony and despair together and pull together as a community.
He said: “I firmly believe that theatre productions should be able to take risks on subjects like this, because we’re in a safe place to do so.
“It isn’t just about the awful side of people’s stories; I want to convey how people can overcome these incidents in different ways, using dark and character based comedy.
“Some people find it difficult to escape these incidents, whilst others can move on from them far easier; that’s what I want to convey.
“What I’ve found is that people are more courageous than you would expect when dealing with situations like this.
“I don’t think I’ve heard of a play like this before, I think it’s the first of it’s kind.”
BU21 documents the lives of six young people from London in the wake of a terrorist attack on the capital city, after a passenger airliner is brought down in a suspected Islamic State attack.
And in order to understand what the aftermath of a terrorist attack is like, Stuart immersed himself in the accounts of some of the most infamous terrorist attacks the world has ever seen.
Before writing for BU21 began, Stuart spent time researching eyewitness accounts of attacks such as 9/11, the Paris attacks, and the 7/7 bombings to get an insight into the real-life effects of terrorism.
“I researched these infamous terrorist attacks, just like anyone else would have done, and I saw a lot of people interviewed after these incidents who are just normal Londoners like you and me,” he said.
“I wanted to make BU21 as realistic and as authentic as I possibly could, and the best way to do that was to look at aftermath of these incidents.
“Living in London, I think it’s just a case of when, rather than if, the next incident happens, the threat is always there in the background, so it’s a real life issue that we all have to deal with.
“We are living in a world of social media, and when these incidents happen it’s quite possible that people can learn about the fate of loved ones using these social media outputs.
“After these terrorist incidents have happened, it’s very plausible to say that they could easily happen again.”
This won’t be the first time Stuart has wowed audiences with his outside of the box thinking, his previous production Cans was nominated for two Offies, for best play and most promising playwright.
“Cans was about a radio star who was involved in charges of historical sexual abuse. That was received well by audiences and this is my second big play,” he said.
“We took Cans to Italy, in Milan and Rome,and touring was great fun.”
In maintaining the realistic representation that he aims to portray with BU21, Stuart kept things simple yet effective whilst deciding on the name of his production.
“The name, BU21, is the code name of the flight in the play,” he explained.
“I live in Putney and every 30 seconds I hear a plane flying over, and each of them has a two digit code which is the flight number
“The way the most infamous terrorist attacks are remembered are by code names, like 9/11 or 7/7. It’s a way that we can memorialise these incidents.”
Featured picture courtesy of givingnot, with thanks