Review: The Drill @ Home, Mcr
For Breach theatre company, we live in a world where planning for the future is at odds with the constant threat of lacking a future altogether. We live under the looming threat of terror attacks or even “a tornado, probably with a woman’s name, so no one will take it fucking seriously”.
The Drill attempts to address all potential issues and anxieties that come with living in a 21st-century conurbation: finding steady employment, having children, the inability to afford a house, the fleeting dating scene, throwaway culture, self-absorption, racism, sexism, ageism and finding a way to be PC amidst widespread fear of terror threats. All important issues in their own right, each only able to be brushed over in this 60-minute, three-man show.
Combining documentary film with devised theatre, The Drill sews together three separate monologues with “impromptu” practice drills based on real ‘anti-terror’ training courses. This is Simon Stephens’ Pornography meets Beginners’ First Aid.
The script is striking and successfully paints some vivid pictures, punctuated with audience tittering and several moments of intense identification. On paper, the writing of Billy Barrett and Ellice Stevens works wonders; in practice, we are left always awaiting the moment that the monologues converge…
Punctuating the steady stream of direct address to the audience, the onstage trio regularly drill each other on emergency practices. It is interesting to learn what actions are deemed “necessary” for laypeople to know, and thought-provoking to consider the state of a society that must rehearse for the worst case scenario. Yet the performance lacks a clear message: the actors seem unsure whether they are mocking their training or didactically passing it on to us. The staged “candid” bickering and disagreements undermine each instance of immersive rehearsal, creating an atmosphere almost as uncomfortable as the direct address to the instructional videos.
Incorporating documentary film, directed by Dorothy Allen-Pickard, The Drill situates itself in unique relation to reality and rehearsal. Insights from people who make a living simulating scenes of disaster provide depth and movement to the bare stage. Yet, as the onstage actors ask questions to the blank screen, the show takes on a cringeworthy level of didactic "call and response".
The actors, Amarnah Amuludun, Luke Lampard and Ellice Stevens, toe the line between performance and autobiography, appearing most comfortable when soliloquising. They deliver the script with approachable honesty; this balances their stunted composure once they step out into the wider production. Sticking safely on their marks, there are several instances, such as a narrated dance sequence from Amuludun, where we wait for the moment to blossom into action; but each case is cut-off and unfortunately falls static once more.
I left the theatre genuinely curious about how I would respond in a simulated crisis situation and whether I would be able to throw myself wholeheartedly into a training scenario. In that respect, the crew behind The Drill began to pique my interest and prove that their show delivers some level of political engagement. Yet I also couldn’t shake an irrefutable sense of frustration that stemmed from the production that feels simultaneously instructive and unsure of itself.
The Drill plays at HOME, Manchester from 14-16th June. For tickets and more information, see the HOME website.
Photos by Alex Powel