The Drill

Billy Barrett and Ellice Stevens
Breach Theatre
Battersea Arts Centre

“Everything feels uncertain... How can we be safe?”

It’s a question that opens Breach’s performance of The Drill. It led them to attend training sessions on how to deal with emergency situations.

The show consists of video clips from these sessions and interviews with trainers which are projected onto giant screens in the L-shaped performance space.

Between the screenings of these extracts, the actors would demonstrate some of the exercises. They also become three characters who each have a story to tell about a particular day.

The trainer on screen points out that usually the first people to respond to an emergency are the untrained ordinary people and that they would be more effective if they had rehearsed beforehand different emergencies.

It was a point brought home to me a couple of weeks ago when sitting in the balcony of the Wanamaker Playhouse a stranger beside me collapsed unconscious. I felt able to do little more than hold him up and check he was breathing. It was only when a woman collapsed in a nearby aisle that the stewards were alerted to my situation.

A rehearsal would have helped but emergencies can vary so much that a lot of training would be needed to cover every situation and that assumes the reality doesn’t just send us into shock.

Breach focuses the advantages of rehearsal on the prospect of terrorism. They show us how to act in response to a bullet wound and whom we might suspect in a railway station. I must admit they performed some impressive manoeuvres to disarm a random person with a gun, not that I know anyone who has ever needed to do that.

The video clips and exercises by the actors could have been a reasonable workplace promotion for a training course but I am guessing Breach wanted to say something more than letting us know the courses exist.

The three stories each at some point connect to anxieties about war or terrorism.

A woman (Ellice Stevens) thinking about the possibilities of having a child daydreams that a baby she is holding disintegrates in her arms.

A gay man (Luke Lampard) just out of a relationship goes to a stranger’s house on a Grindr date he is not sure about.

Later, as he arrives at the railway station, he bumps into a woman (Amarnah Amuludun) handing out leaflets. She is on the verge of reporting as suspicious someone in the station who is taking pictures.

However, beyond touching on the same topic, there doesn’t seem to be any connection between these stories and either the training exercises or the videos.

There are heightened anxieties about terrorism but these can be traced to a media and political preoccupation with the subject rather than training sessions which are theoretically intended to reduce anxieties.

The fifty-five-minute performance passed quickly enough but it needed to have more of an integrated purpose than was evident in this production.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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