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Review of The Bombing of The Grand Hotel at the Cockpit Theatre

The Bombing of The Grand HotelBeing only six at the time and never really interested in what happened in 1984, I didn’t have a lot of information on the Brighton Bombing. A friend from Belfast came with me and her knowledge of it was a lot more in-depth than mine.

An intimate space, with a cast of six playing multiple characters, transported us back in time to September 1984, where IRA Member Patrick Magee stayed a weekend at the Grand Hotel under the pseudonym Roy Walsh. It was in room 629 where he planted the bomb on a long-delay timer to go off in the early hours of the 12th of October with the purpose of killing Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet who were staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party Conference. Thatcher escaped injury, and continued on with her conference as scheduled the next morning. Five people were killed. One of these five being Sir Anthony Berry, which is where the play really begins.

Berry wasn’t even meant to be at the conference that weekend, but someone dropped out and he was sent in his place. He was a father of six and his daughter Jo Berry, was hit hard by the news of her father’s death. On a train journey to Ireland Jo met a young frantic girl from Belfast. The only way she could calm her down was to tell her about what had happened to her father. This lead to awkward conversations and an even more awkward hug. It was here she knew she wanted to meet Patrick Magee. She tried many times but it wasn’t until 1999 on his release that she finally mustered up the courage to meet him.

This is where the writers have got it spot on. The audience was silent and holding their breath. How could you want to meet the man who bombed your father and be civil. Let alone continue to meet him since.

Jo had a lot on her mind that she wanted to ask him, and she wanted to know why should her children have to grow up without a grandfather. Jo is a formidable woman and has committed her life to peaceful resolution and mediation of conflict. It was during these meetings you felt every emotion of hers, but you also felt for Magee.

The play is well written from both sides and is more about the emotion and friendship that followed, than the politics and seriousness of the situation.

Together, controversially they turned up at Peace One Day Conference and have continued to meet over 100 hundred times. What a moving a piece of theatre. Literally compelling with a fantastic cast. “100 times, she met him 100 times..”

The lady in front of me turned around… “Actually it is more like a 130 times…” it was Jo Berry. We spoke to her, met her daughter and she said she felt moved that her story was being accurately told. Accurately told by the person who was living this heartfelt piece of theatre for real. It made the experience so much more by knowing we had just seen this with her for the first time. She could have been anywhere else in the theatre but she choose to sit in front of us, talk to us and answer any questions we had.

An enjoyable and moving piece of theatre with a thought provoking story to tell.

4 stars

Review by Gary Palmer

The Bombing of The Grand Hotel
1984. The height of Thatcher’s power.
30lbs of gelignite rip through six floors of the Grand Hotel Brighton, shattering the Tory party conference. The most shocking attack on the British Government since Guy Fawkes.

This visceral new history play tells the story of the unlikely relationship between Pat Magee, who planted the bomb, and Jo Berry, whose father was killed in the blast. Can they really start to see the world through one another’s eyes?

The Bombing Of The Grand Hotel is written jointly by Julie Everton and Josie Melia, directed by Paul Hodson and produced by Wildspark Theatre and The Cockpit.

Researched with the support of Jo Berry and Patrick Magee, the play is a thought provoking and moving exploration of the political pressures and personal triggers surrounding a key moment of extreme public violence within a continuing struggle for change.
When two worlds collide, what good can come of it?

The Bombing of the Grand Hotel
Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm, Saturday matinees 2.30pm
13th April – 2nd May 2015

Thursday 16th April 2015


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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