Pros: Packed with interesting questions, bound to prompt debate.
Cons: Could use a wider range of narrative perspectives.
The Drill is a wide-ranging exploration of the power of imagination, interspersed with some serious life hacks. It is primarily about the nature and usefulness of planning for major terror attacks, but through the lives of its three characters it also looks at the way that imagination can help us work through anxieties, weigh up alternative courses of action or, indeed, poison a happy present with fear of an unhappy future. It is certainly one of the most thought-provoking pieces of theatre that I have seen in a while and no doubt will fuel many animated post-show conversations.
Playing in one of the smaller spaces at Battersea Arts Centre, it is set for the most part around a large blue crash mat, with projection screens on two of the back walls. The three characters are taking part in disaster training exercises, both in the room with us, and on screen. In between practising how to tackle a gunman, deliver CPR or calm a panicked victim, the characters talk about their own lives, describing the role of fantasy and dreams in those lives. One relieves the boredom of a menial job by imagining herself CEO of the company, another conjures scenes of loving reconciliation, while the third relives textbook anxiety dreams about motherhood. It is all recognisable and relatable but, in a show which is about trying to imagine things beyond our own ken, it’s a little disappointing that all three characters are squarely metropolitan and 20-something. The discussion might have benefitted from more varied perspectives on life and fear.
Breach Theatre pack an awful lot of issues into this hour long show, but there’s little overt discussion of many of them. Rather, it’s like being given your essay choices at the start of an exam: “Simulating the chaos and hysteria of a mass casualty attack simply fuels public anxiety about a statistically small threat.” Discuss. Or, “Collective neurosis is a price worth paying if it saves lives.” Discuss.
As for the life hacks, well this is the place to come if you can’t afford a full day’s training with ex-SAS types, but quite fancy knowing how to disarm an assailant or, indeed, tip them into a massive face-plant. It may well bring back to mind some of what you learnt on a distant first aid course, or prompt you to take a refresher. Because of all the propositions that come out of this show, “First Aid is a jolly useful thing to know” is the only one that really doesn’t seem to need ‘Discuss’ at the end of it.
This is an impressive piece of devised theatre that links lots of diverse topics with a strong thematic thread. Using a mix of video, live action, documentary and physical theatre, it asks its audience all the right questions and leaves them to come up with their own answers. Yet for me it was a canape selection; lots of variety and some really tasty bits, but not quite as satisfying as a full meal.
Authors: Billy Barrett and Ellice Stevens
Directors: Dorothy Allen-Pickard and Billy Barrett
Booking Until: 17 February 2018
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/content/44280/whats_on/whats_on/shows/the_drill