Arcola Theatre, London (****)
You can’t keep a good man down. Nick Kent may no longer be presiding over the nation’s conscience as he did from his Tricycle Kilburn haunt but here he is popping up on the other side of town, in Hackney with this important double-bill serving a warning on the latest twist in modern warfare, the drone: Ron Hutchinson and Christina Lamb’s This Tuesday, and David Greig’s The Kid.
Flashback for a moment three years and anyone seeing it will remember George Brant’s superb Grounded on a similar subject (interestingly returning to the Gate in February as part of Christopher Haydon’s final season there as artistic director).
A solo tour de force by Lucy Ellison as an American female drones pilot, it caught precisely the finger on the button highwire adrenalin rush and its delayed cumulative reaction on the human being, distant, removed but nonetheless affected.
Drones, Baby, Drones eventually covers some of the same material adding a few more for good measure. It is the Hutchinson and Lamb This Tuesday that offers a chilling prediction of the future where because of the ever increasing reduction in size of drones, no one and nowhere will be safe.
And it is This Tuesday which poses personal death against those making life and death decisions on another continent with Anne Adams’ CIA executive, Maxine hauling in her advisers for a White House meeting even as her daughter is facing death from a fatal car accident on a Washington street. An Army General compares the old fashioned upfront ways of warfare with present day and a young intern cross-questions her lover, another inner circle drone `adviser’.
Book-ended by a speech from Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve Director and civil rights lawyer, he makes the uncomfortable point that under Obama, the CIA, conducting their own drones policy, have been subject to no accountability. Obama does not come out of this well!
There is plenty of meat to this three-way discussion with each scene divided by a video of real-time action happening on stage. We’re all being watched!
But it is the great David Greig’s subtle, haunting The Kid with its off duty drone pilots and partners celebrating a `hit’ which so devastatingly encapsulates the arguments rounding it off with shattering vision of a Sarah Palin like mind-set rejoicing in her new pregnancy whilst arguing for more killing of children as a deterrent.
Rose Reynolds plays this Alice with a Sandra Dennis dumb innocence whose transformation into a blood-thirsty hawk is all the more shocking for the matter-of-fact rationale with which it is argued.
Lovely performances from Sam Dale as the army General invoking classical warriors (Ajax) and Stafford Smith’s speeches are matched by all the cast.
Once again Kent has served up an important commentary on our present day with this comparatively short (by his standards) political testimony. But it is Greig’s domestic and emotional realities that stick in the mind and cast the longest shadow.
Drones, Baby, Drones runs at the Arcola Theatre to Nov 26, 2016
This review first published on this website, Nov 9, 2016. See also review of George Grant’s Grounded on this website under `Reviews 2013′.
Drones, Baby, Drones
By Ron Hutchinson and Christina Lamb
Maxine: Anne Adams
Jay: Joseph Balderamma
General Ben Crow/Clive Stafford-Smith: Sam Dale
Captain Mario Garcia: Raj Ghatak
Doug: Tom McKay
Meredith: Rose Reynolds
Director: Nicolas Kent
By David Greig
Shauna: Anne Adams
Ramon: Joseph Balderamma
Peter: Tom McKay
Alice: Rose Reynolds
Design: Lucy Sierra
Lighting & Video Design: Richard Williamson
Sound Design: Neil McKeown
Casting: Marilyn Johnson
Costume Supervisor: Hanne Talbot
Literary Consultant: Jack Bradley
Presented by Arcola Theatre in association with Nick of Time Productions and Jemima Khan and commissioned from an original idea by Nicolas Kent (for Nick of Time Productions)
World premiere of Drones, Baby, Drones, Arcola Theatre, London, Nov 2, 2016