Follow Us on Twitter

Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre - Arcola Theatre

Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

SHRAPNEL: 34 Fragments of a Massacre, by Anders Lustgarten, will receive its world premiere at the Arcola Theatre, where it runs from March 16 (previews from March 11) to April 2, 2015.

December 2011. Watching video footage from a drone, Pentagon officials see a huddle of people – unarmed smugglers, with mules – treading their familiar path across the Turkish-Iraqi border. Hours later, Turkish Armed Forces drop bombs on the group. 34 civilians are killed.

The Roboski massacre is one of the most controversial episodes in the ‘war on terror’. Piecing together the fragments of the tragedy, Anders Lustgarten’s startling new play dares to ask what a massacre is made of.

Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre is a story of malicious commands and mournful commemorations; an urgent, powerful insight into the state of modern warfare. It is the first of two urgent political plays directed by Arcola Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen in the current season.

The second, Clarion, by former Fleet Street journalist Mark Jagasia, is an urgent black comedy about free speech, nationalism and the state of the British media. It opens in April.

The cast of Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre comprises Tuncay Akpınar, Josef Altin, Karina Fernandez, David Kirkbride, Aslam Percival Husain and Ryan Wichert.

Anders Lustgarten won the inaugural Harold Pinter Playwright’s Award for If You Don’t Let Us Dream We Won’t Let You Sleep at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs. He is currently under commission to the Royal Court and the National Theatre among several others, and is also adapting David Peace’s The Damned United for a national stage tour.

As well as Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre, Lustgarten’s most recent work includes Lampedusa, which will premiere at Soho Theatre in April. As a long-standing political activist, he’s been arrested in four continents. Lustgarten says:

“I used to work for a Kurdish human rights group, and I want the victims of the Roboski killings to have the voice they’ve been denied. But I also want to ask a pointed question: who’s responsible for a massacre? Is it only the soldier who presses the button or fires the shots? What about the politicians who can’t inspire with anything except hatred? The media that plays along, fulminating or fearful? The nerdy technocrats who make the bombs and clock off at 5pm? This story could be about Gaza, or Iraq, or any of the many modern assaults on poor people by industrialised societies. It’s a play, fundamentally, about complicity.”

Mehmet Ergen says: “This is the first of two powerful political plays receiving their world premieres in the Arcola’s new season. Clarion will question the state of the British media; Shrapnel the state of modern warfare. Both are vital and urgent subjects, especially in the run up to the general election.”

Shrapnel: 34 Fragments of a Massacre is designed by Anthony Lamble, with lighting by Richard Williamson, music and sound by Neil McKeown and dramaturgy by Seçil Honeywill.

Tickets and times: Monday – Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, £19, £15 concessions; Saturday matinees at 3pm, £17, £14 concessions (March 21), £19, £15 concessions (March 28); opening performances (March 11-14) – all tickets £12. Pay What You Can Tuesdays (tickets in person from 6pm – limited and subject to availability). Tickets are £10 or less with Arcola Passport. To book, call the box office on 020 7503 1646 or visit

Running time: to be confirmed with first preview.