The Bomb

The MP Sir Anthony Berry was killed in the Brighton Bombing of 1984 during the Tory Party Conference. A timed bomb had been planted in his room at the Grand Hotel three weeks previously by IRA activist Pat Magee.

Magee was given multiple life sentences. He was released under the Good Friday Agreement of 1999 and has, since that time, been actively involved in work for peace.

Jo Berry, Anthony Berry’s daughter, spent many years trying to understand the reasons for the conflict, visiting Northern Ireland many times and working with victims and combatants.

Nearly twenty years after the bombing, Jo Berry and Pat Magee met. The meeting and reconciliation of these two people is a hugely powerful story about the meaning of forgiveness. The story about their meeting, their feelings at that time and since, and their subsequent friendship is to be found in a moving account on the website of The Forgiveness Project.

Kevin Dyer, the writer of THE BOMB, listened to an interview with Jo Berry on Woman’s Hour while driving to work.  ‘That morning, when I heard her talk about wanting to meet the man who killed her dad, I was listening to something profound, personal, political. She was talking about something intensely moving that connected to my own life.’

Arriving at Action Transport Theatre, Kevin Dyer retold what he had just heard on the radio to Joe Sumsion, Artistic Director, who immediately commissioned the writing of the play.

Still with no real idea of how or what he was going to write, he never the less knew that he must meet the two main protagonists, Jo Berry and Pat Magee.

In THE SKELETON KEY (published by, and available from,  Action Transport Theatre), Kevin Dyer gives a very full account of the various meetings, conversations and locations that informed the outline of the play and aided its authenticity. It also tells how he used factual information together with facets of his own family background wrapped in a sort of cloak of imagination; bending time and space, mixing everyday language with poetry. The result is ‘a fiction based on fact; a story based on truth that has its own truth.’

The characters of the play and some of the ‘might have’ events are fictionalised.

ELIZABETH Late thirties, mother of a seventeen -year-old daughter, MARNIE. While packing to spend a weekend in Blackpool, Elizabeth receives a phone call to meet with NED, the bomber who killed her father twenty years before. A young man at the time of the bombing, he is forty-four when they meet.

LIZZIE Twenty years ago. Has just left school and about to travel to India with friends.

WILLIAM TOWNSEND MP Elizabeth’s father. At a high point in his career. A loving and adored father but on this day, the day of the bombing, is only able to spend a short time with Lizzie.

THE WOMAN  A psychic. Seen on the ferry carrying Elizabeth to meet Ned in Belfast.

The action of the play takes place on a Friday and during the previous twenty years. It is layered so that events are seen being acted out against other happenings and at other times. For instance, we see Elizabeth preparing to meet with the bomber against a backdrop of Ned in the hotel bedroom twenty years before. Another image shows a ‘what if’ scene – what if Elizabeth attacks Ned or if he tries to attack her?

The script of THE BOMB is published by, and available from,  Action Transport Theatre and contains illuminating interviews by Sarah Clover with Jo Berry, Kevin Dyer and Director Joe Sumsion.

Jo Berry’s answer to the question, Is there ‘anything specific you would like audiences to take away from the play besides your story?’ gets to the heart of what the play conveys so well: ‘No one needs to stay a victim, everyone can go on a journey of healing however difficult the situation. There are always alternatives to blaming which can heal the pain without continuing the cycle of violence and revenge.’

A message that is still relevant for young audiences in a world of suicide bombers, terrorists, civil war.

The images in this story are from the second of three productions of THE BOMB.


Elizabeth                                Janet Bamford

Marnie                                    Sally Evans

Ned O’Driscoll                      Paul Dodds

Lizzie                                      Sally Evans

William Townsend MP       Richard Walker

The Woman                          Sally Evans

Director                                  Joe Sumsion

Designer                                 Alison Heffernan

Composer                               Julian Ronnie

Lighting and sound              Mike Francis

Following a performance at THE LOCKPICKERS’ BALL – a three day festival that took place in Liverpool in October, 2006 – there was a Q and A session which gave the audience of writers and theatre makers the opportunity to question Jo Berry, Pat Magee, Kevin Dyer, Joe Sumsion, Paul Dodds and Janet Bamford.

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4 Comments Add Yours

  1. John Chapman

    Lovely photos as always. you manage somehow to convey the emotions of your subjects so well.
    A tortuous subject for a play though; did it achieve success? Time seems to play an important part in forgiveness.

    • Sylvia Selzer

      Thanks, John. Not sure ‘tortuous’ is a term I would apply to this play. Written for a young people’s audience nevertheless it can be enjoyed by adults too – ‘enjoyed’ in the sense that it is at times deeply moving and at others there are lighter moments that move the play on.
      THE BOMB was well-received in three national tours and received excellent reviews, one from the Guardian’s Lyn Gardner. It was also toured to Belfast.

      ‘Time heals all wounds’ would not seem to apply in situations like Northern Ireland where there has been hatred on all sides for hundreds of years. One can only hope that enough people are able and willing to forgive to achieve peace.

  2. Allan Owens

    A very powerful mixture of photography and prose, Sylvia. A sense of time and timeliness comes through this. Having the time to forgive. Meeting friends and colleagues in Palestine where they wake each day to the harsh realities of occupation, one day things will change many of my friends say. This is a precious hope not fatalism. Thanks for such provoking work.

    • Sylvia Selzer

      You must see so many people on your travels, Allan, who wish and strive for peace. They humble us in our own safe country.
      Thanks again for appreciating my work.

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