Finger Trigger Bullet Gun

Studio Theatre  

A play we commissioned from Nenad Prokic, an award winning Serbian playwright, about the start of the first world war.

Visiting the philosopher Carl Popper, Nenad mentioned that the Serbs has started the First World War (Gravilo Princip, who assassinated Arch Duke Ferdinand was a Bosnian Serb). To this Popper replied that a Serb finger may have pulled the trigger, but asked who had put the bullet in the gun. He thenwent on to talk about the work of Fritz Fischer, the German historian who claims his own country was responsible for the war.

Stan’s Cafe met Nenad Prokic when the latter was director of the Belgrade International Theatre Festival and invited It’s Your Film to performin Belgrade in 2002. At the end of that visit he challenged the company to adapt The Anatomy of Melancholy for the stage. In 2013 when he was England for the premiere of The Anatomy of Melancholy Stan’s Cafe discussed the possibility of Nenad coming out of a fifteen year playwrighting retirement to write something for then.

When Mark Ball, director of the London International Festival of Theatre mentioned that he was commissioning a season to commemorate the Centenary ofthe outbreak of the First World War this seemed an opportunity too good to miss.

Nenad’s play starts on the streets of London, at the funeral of Edward VII, it then twice visits Berlin, Vienna and Belgrade as we see the war being set up. The show concludes with a reflection on contemporary politics with reference to the war.

The visual metaphor for the piece is domino toppling. The Archduke is the first domino to fall and ten million follow. We couldn’t manage that butasked one of our Partner Schools, Washwood Heath Academy, to make us 19,240 dominos, one for each solider killed on the first day of fighting on the Somme. They also wrote names of soldiers and messages to them on the dominos, then we spent a day setting them up and toppling them to see how easy (or not) it is.

The world premiere was performed on 28th June, 2014 exactly 100 years on from the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand.


Grump/Alfred von Tirpitz/Franz Joseph: Gerard Bell
Optimist/Franz Joseph/Alexander Karadjordjevich: Gareth Nicholls (Craig Stephens in Novi Sad)
Helmuth von Moltke/Leopold Berthold/Dragutin Apis: Graeme Rose
Kaiser Wilhelm/Vojislav Tankosich/Colporteur: Jack Trow

Written by: Nenad Prokic
Translated by: Mirka Jankovic
Thanks to Professor Nebojsa Randjelovic University, PhD of Nis (Nissa) for his invaluable assistance
Dominoes by: Washwood Heath Academy
Costumes by: Kay Wilton
Lighting by: Simon Bond
With thanks to Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Stage Manager: Eliza Waters
General Manager: Charlotte Martin
Commissioned By: London International Festival of Theatre
Surtitles in Novi Sad: Lidija Kapicic

Tour Dates

  • 1 – 2 June 2015:
    Sterijino pozorije Festival, Novi Sad, Serbia

  • 28 June 2014:
    LIFT, BAC, London

  • 2 – 4 July 2014:
    BE Festival, The REP, Birmingham