Theatre review: Be Silent or Be Killed, Musselburgh

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THE shocking Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008 – in which almost 200 people died, in an assault on some of the city’s most famous hotels and public buildings – is an event laden with political meanings, and global resonances.

Be Silent or Be Killed

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh

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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 touring 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 Hunt’s experience. Within seconds, though, John McGeoch’s set opens up into a reconstruction of the 14th floor room in the Oberoi Hotel, where 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 memories of Aberdeen’s football team, during its great days under Alex Ferguson.

James Mackenzie gives an eloquent performance as Hunt; Helen Mackay and Ewan Donald offer well-pitched support. And although the conclusions 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 visual and theatrical energy of Ian Grieve’s production, that holds the attention; and encourages us to remember Sir Alex’s message, as manager of Aberdeen – play to the end, never give up, and never, ever say die.