The Big Bang Gang in Sarajevo Big Bang, Portman Hall, Shillingstone

I have just returned from the Artsreach performance of Sara­jevo Big Bang in Shillingstone. Here are three reviews of the show:

THREE brilliant satirists are testing out the traditional politeness of a British audience with the strangely titled Sarajevo Big Bang, on a tour of village halls around the UK.

The conceit is that they are Swedish performers on tour, telling a simplistic but complicated story of war and love in a multi-layered series of historic narratives, songs and polemical lectures.

Of course they chose the name to confuse. Introduced verbally the danger of  saying “gang bang” is an almost irresistible gaffe. On paper it’s a tongue-twister and the publicity shot shows two men and a woman, whereas they are two women and a man – and they are up on a roof in a pre-Chagall moment.

One woman plays an earnest storyteller whose momentum is  always dashed by the interjections of the man, whose left-wing attitudes are in danger of overwhelming the show but whose English is so flawed that he slows the progress to a painful crawl. The second woman is a singer whose job it is to entrance the audience with personal tales, moving in the second half to cheap cabaret togs and songs familiar from Marlene Dietrich and Joan Baez.

And the audience at Shillingstone played along perfectly, applauding enthusiastically, waving flags, and praising the digs at Trump and Brexit.

It may be the best mockumentary spoof since early Christopher Guest – and they even brought a Swedish-registered car to park outside.



WE are at a critical balancing point in our existence when clear-eyed rigour, caring humanity and persistence have never been more important.

So a show like Sarajevo Big Bang, which takes its title from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferd­i­n­and  in Bosnia in 1914, is a timely reminder of how quickly things can get out of hand in a society run by megalomanics, yes-men and shareholders.

Singer and dramatist Eva Ahre­malm, novelist and playwright Staffan Ekegren and storyteller and artist Maria Sedell are on a UK tour, travelling from their native Sweden to unfold a multi-layered story in songs, audience participation and graphic depictions of changing national alliances and borders.

They combine historical fact with songs – from Cabaret, Marlene Dietrich and John Lennon among others – and take the audience with them on a roller-coaster journey through European and Middle Eastern politics that has stretched out over the Atlantic.

Be careful what you wish for, and even more careful for whom you vote, might be the message.



A SLIGHTLY bemused audience went  along to Shillingstone Portman Hall on Sunday to see the only Dorset performance of Sarajevo Big Bang, promoted by rural arts touring charity Artsreach.

Several were unsure what they were seeing, and were further confused by the Swedish company The Big Bang Gang being two men and a woman on the poster, but two women and a man in the flesh.   Some had thought it was a big band show, or that the international artists were from the Balkans.

The show itself is hard to describe. It’s a cross between cabaret and storytelling, with a sort of lecturing linking device, performed by singer Eva, writer Staffan (who struggled not only with the language but with a persistent frog in his throat), and storyteller Maria.

Eva sings and engages with her audience, and Maria tells a story that even those familiar with O What a Lovely War will find interesting.

The layering of the stories, starting with the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo that kick-started the First World War, sometimes slowed the energy of the proceedings, and the sound and visuals could do with a bit of tweaking, but there is much to praise in this sometimes worthy attempt at putting war into context, and warning of the eternally real and present dangers.


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