Are we the Makers or Victims of History?

Oli Yellop has that enviable capacity to make us see things from different angles and to put us in situations we could normally not imagine.

Oli Yellop and Lewis Bruniges in Tunnels

Most of the time we trudge along in the mainstream of events – working, shopping, eating, sleeping and dreaming of our summer holidays. Of getting away from it all.

His new play Tunnels, which takes place as part of Army@TheFringe, is about East German Cold War cousins Paul and Freddie Metz. They want to get away from it all. And part of the reason, for one of them at least, is that the ability to work for a decent wage, buy quality consumer goods, take a vacation and eat tasty food is itself a dream worth risking his life for.

Tunnels is about their attempt to burrow beneath the Berlin Wall, past the landmines, machine guns, soldiers and STASI secret police, to the West and all that is simply prosaic for most of us.

Oli has a fascination with ordinary people in extreme circumstances. Those who put themselves in peril, either for their own sake or a perceived greater cause.

Last year he won a string of four star reviews (The Stage described it as a highlight of the Fringe) for an online Army@TheVirtualFringe production called I am Gavrilo Princip. In this we went to the afterlife and met the young assassin who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand; kick-starting the First World War. 

Oddly, many might think, he was not in hell but on a purgatorial plane. Indeed we end up with some sympathy for him.

In Tunnels we can also see people stuck in a nether world, part of the vast movements of history. And then again there is the old, old question of whether they are the architects of events or simply the victims of history.