In the middle of Sarajevo, where the waitress in a cafe tries to flirt with a man hoplessly failing to ignore her, another bursts from offstage to address the audience. Proclaiming that it is 1934, he is Professor Mehmedbasic and that he has been pardoned of any involvement in the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Nevertheless these are some of the events that he supposes may have led up to that murder.
Certainly an auspicious and intriguing opening to a play, and thankfully there were no repeat fourth wall breaking moments in this quite fascinating evokation of the trigger events which led to the instigation of the Great War.
The story centres around Ivan Juritz's Princip, a quiet young man, dotingly in love but strangely detached from the similarly inclined waitress Ana. He is part of the Black Hand, a group of students hell bent on killing Ferdinand but disguising their actions through the use of a series of clumsy food based and reversed letter codes. The troupe then need to reherse the act in the form of a political play, to keep the secret from the ring leader's mother, whose basement they work from.
It's all very silly, and funny, without ever becoming farcical or making an utter fool of the seriousness of the situation. As a result, the moments of poignant humour are all the stronger as the lunacy begins to spiral out of control and the characters we have grown to care about are placed in more and more jeopardy.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan