Anatomy Of A Bombing

By Stuart Black Last edited 45 months ago
Anatomy Of A Bombing ★★★★☆ 4


Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

The Bombing of The Grand Hotel is a strange, profound and moving play. It anatomises one of the most significant acts of politically-motivated violence to occur in the UK in recent memory. It is now just over 30 years since the IRA planted 30lbs of gelignite in Brighton’s Grand Hotel in an attempt to assassinate Margaret Thatcher and wipe out the Tory high command during their annual party conference. That attempt failed though the explosion in room 629 still killed five people and injured 31 others.

Co-writers Julie Everton and Josie Melia have developed this account of the event over the last three years with the help of two people deeply involved in it: the bomber Pat Magee and one of his victims Jo Berry, whose father, MP Sir Anthony Berry, was killed. That these two both spoke to the writers is startling enough, that they did so together and have been part of an ongoing dialogue with each other borders on the unnerving.

Their relationship is at the heart of this play: the two attempting to connect and understand each other as the years have gone by since that day in Brighton in 1984. It's a difficult and controversial relationship with shades of Stockholm syndrome, as reasonable as it can seem on the surface. Everton and Melia explore the situation’s complexity, without dodging any of that inherent strangeness and manage to sustain an impressive lucidity throughout the play as the characters reveal their motivations and feelings.

This is extremely potent historical political theatre, very well acted by Rachel Blackman and Ruairi Conaghan as the leads, and effectively directed by Paul Hodson. We get nothing less than a 360 degree view of what inspires a terrorist act and what effect its aftermath has on the people within the blast radius. And even though the IRA has faded away, the story here seems hugely relevant to the age of Isis and other parallel extremist groups. There is an abundance of political theatre around at the moment as we head into the general election, this piece is one of the best we have seen so far.

The Bombing Of The Grand Hotel runs at The Cockpit Theatre until 2 May. Tickets £18 (concessions £16). There are Q&As on 23 and 29 May. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 20 April 2015