I had heard nothing about Vanessa Bates’ extraordinary play before reading it today. How is that possible? Why hasn’t Checklist for an Armed Robber been produced in Queensland? (If it has and I’ve missed it, please let me know.)
Reading the play didn’t take me long – but what has engrossed me for the last hour is watching video clips and reading up on the Chechen siege of the Moscow theatre. Because that’s a core part of Checklist. Vanessa Bates started the play as part of a writing project where she had to work with actors to devise a piece based on an article in the news. She came to the first workshop with two articles: one was about the Dubrovka theatre siege and the second was about a gunman holding up a Newcastle bookstore and leaving with a couple of books instead of the money.
This is an incredible play to read. The two stories are woven together so that they happen simultaneously with a cast of four playing a vast array of characters. It should be confusing but it isn’t, not even for a second.
I was much more engrossed in the Russian story than the Newcastle one, but the local story gave a reprieve to what could have been a relentlessly grim read.
I hope I’ll get a chance to see Checklist for an Armed Robber produced. If it’s even half as exciting and moving on stage as it was to read, it will be an incredible production. (Most plays are far better performed than read, the page is not where they exist comfortably.)
You can listen to a radio version with an online presentation on the ABC.
Publisher: Currency Press
Cast: 2M, 2F
Warning: the following video has graphic and disturbing images of the Dubrovka theatre siege. It also features Anna Politkovskaya, whose article was the inspiration for the play and who was murdered in 2006.