An alarm sounds. Light changes. These are the signals for another emergency drill training, which interrupts the daily life problems of the three characters in The Drill at the Battersea Arts Centre.
Half performance, half documentary, The Drill explores simulated emergency scenarios disrupting the more or less habituated procedure of the everyday life. The three characters, played by Amarnah Amuludun, Luke Lampard and Ellice Stevens, face the daily survival coping with their lives as artist, fresh single and expected future mum-to-be. Therebetween, they practice and debate the preparations and ‘performance’ guidelines for first aid, gun shooting and terrorist attack simulations in discussion with professionals via projection screens.
The Drill is the third performative result of Breach Theatre, an innovative collaboration between theatre makers Billy Barrett and Ellice Stevens, who also performs in the show, and video artist Dorothy Allen-Pickard.
The juggling between artistic self-expression of the characters and the informative tone of the projections and live practices for an emergency is mastered within the 60 minutes show time. Without being lecturing and instructive, the three characters question the frame of performing, pretending for an emergency, as well as the ethical discussion about ethnicities and gender framing a simulation of a terrorist attack. Their playfulness challenges, questions and corrects each other to provide a platform for imaginative training and to take the audience with them. This humour of the constant break of the 4th wall is the heart of the show. In the beginning it is already established that The Drill is not a mass-pretence of something real, but a training session for the emergency: the characters present 1st aid training, defence mechanism and emergency performance codes for the audience. It is a mass-agreement of a simulation session embedded in the daily lives of the characters.
Even though, The Drill is advertised as including audience participation, the observation of the characters in training does not count as such. This announcement is misleading; however, it is meant to describe the participation in the emergency scenarios as active observer. Furthermore, the acting appears sometimes too rehearsed and rigid within the several scenarios. Yet, that can be explained within the constant break and questioning of the performing situations as recurrent scepticism of realness and pretence. Another critic point marks a lack of a guiding thread concerning the purposes of some rehearsed choreographies. It would be clearer if the audience would be informed about certain moments of defence techniques to not cloud their, definitely existing, meaning within the performance.
The light (Ethan Hudson) and sound design (Kieran Lucas) are used on a basic scale but immerse the audience skilfully within the constant shift of daily live and drill training. The different light atmospheres clearly introduce and guide the audience throughout the show. Concerning the climax of the show, the sound unfortunately absorbs the characters’ speech.
The Drill mixes entertainment character and informative lecture style to a thoroughly watchable performance about the omnipresent fear and danger of terrorism and the possibilities of rehearsing for the emergency. It presents a well-researched kit of tools, as well as, their constant questioning to not dwell in simplicity, but to move on to profound sincerity beyond clichés.
The Drill is playing at Battersea Arts Centre until the 17th of February. For more information and tickets, see https://www.bac.org.uk/content/44280/whats_on/whats_on/shows/the_drill