Script by shooter Seung-Hui performed

High school shooter Cho Seung-Hui.
By Raymond van den Boogaard

Before killing 32 of his fellow students, and himself, the American Cho Seung-Hui wrote a play. It was performed in Rotterdam on Wednesday.

An act of social resistance, that how artists Jonas Staal and Vincent van Gerven Oei see the shootings that occur with some regularity at American high schools and colleges. At their request, the Wunderbaum troupe did a one-off performance of Richard McBeef in one of Rotterdam’s foremost theatres Wednesday evening.

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Richard McBeef is a one-act play written by Cho Seung-Hui, the Korean-American who killed 32 fellow students and injured 25 in 2007 before committing suicide.

Seung-Hui’s script proved intense and jam-packed with sexual violence and jealousy. The plot centres on a son, a mother and a stepfather, with the basic intrigue bearing a stunning resemblance to Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Wunderbaum performed the play twice, at the beginning of the evening and again at the end, with opportunity for discussion in between. That discussion was unrevealing since the relationship between the author’s script and the crime he committed was not mentioned.

On first performance, Richard McBeef offered a relatively convincing portrayal of a domestic nightmare. On second performance however, the play seemed hollow and empty. Perhaps that was the main lesson the evening had to offer: that the life and work of a high school shooter might seem endowed with meaning when experienced in an interactive setting, but that that meaning evaporates after a more objective examination, as is common in traditional theatre.

Still, this experiment could stand repetition.

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