Pim and Theo are not your everyday children's theatre protagonists. Pim is Pim Fortuyn, the far-right Dutch politician assassinated in 2002 after claiming that "the Netherlands is full". Theo is the provocative Dutch artist and film-maker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in Amsterdam two years later over a short film that featured naked women painted with passages from the Koran. Rosie and Jim, they are not.

Putting the pair onstage is a big risk – particularly in front of a teenage audience. Alex Byrne, artistic director of the anglo-European devised theatre company New International Encounter, is keenly aware of that. "The more I explored the subject," he says, "the less I knew what I thought about it." That's exactly what drives his work: "If I already know, then what's the point in doing it? You go on stage to find out with an audience what something might mean."

Fortuyn and van Gogh were both vehemently outspoken public figures – as controversial as they were contradictory. "It's very easy to sympathise with Theo van Gogh," says Byrne. "He's an artist. He stood up for freedom of expression and the right to offend people. He offended a lot of people, did some very foolish things and was murdered in public, in a very brutal way.

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