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Review of Drones, Baby, Drones at Arcola Theatre

Drones, Baby, DronesWhen the future of war is, in the words of a former US defence secretary, “drones, baby, drones” then what are the consequences? This two-part play explores them all in great detail.

This Tuesday examines how decisions are made – a sort of “who shall we kill this week?” attitude that immediately instils anger in the audience, especially as you begin to question the suitability of the people who make the decisions – can the woman whose daughter has been involved in a car accident, or a man who has just spent the night conducting an extra-marital affair with his intern Meredith really be in the right frame of mind to decide who to kill?

Whilst the audience is left to formulate these questions of their own accord, a whole plethora of other anti-drone arguments are then thrown out which leave very little to the audience’s imagination. At an incredible speed, a highly irritating Meredith (played by Rose Reynolds) tells us about every possible moral problem with drones which, perhaps rather unfortunately, turned my anger from the concept of drone strikes to her character and left me thinking “please will you just shut up”, somewhat diluting the message of the play. Whilst all her points were very valid, it felt more like I was being lectured to than having my thoughts provoked, and the incessant speech didn’t really give any processing time to allow the audience to consider the points she was making.

Where This Tuesday was most successful was in its sound and video design (Neil McKeown and Richard Williamson respectively) which brought home the reality of the drone strike. The play opens with the sound of a car crash which could easily have been the sound of a drone strike, drawing a parallel between something so ‘normal’ and something that is happening thousands of miles away that we barely give a second thought to. Then, during scene changes, the live video of the stage from up above, exactly what a drone’s camera would see if it were hovering above the stage, shows the reality of being watched. It was these comparisons to real life that really brought home the message for me, cutting through the dialogue to make a point on a far more emotional level than any character.

The Kid opens with a new set of characters in a very different setting. Two ‘remote-pilots’ are celebrating a successful hit by a drone and the removal of a known terrorist but, as the characters get progressively more drunk the truth of the strike unravels and the mood turns quickly from celebratory to very dark as “collateral damage” is revealed. Once again, a whole host of issues are explored, but once again they are listed so quickly, and by an equally annoying Alice (also played rather brilliantly by Rose Reynolds) that my instinct was to switch off rather than to engage with the debate.

Perhaps strangely, the part of the production I enjoyed most was the extracts from an interview with defence
attorney and director of Reprieve (a human rights organisation) Clive Strafford Smith (played by Sam Dale) which
began each half and provided a framework for the discussion. His impassioned speech against drones was perfectly executed by Sam Dale and cut straight through the rhetoric to the heart of the issue. No big words were needed here, just pure, hard-hitting fact that gave the audience space to consider.

The six-strong cast all gave good portrayals of their characters from Anne Adams’ emotional Maxine to Joseph
Balderrama’s all American Ramon. However, with a script that doesn’t allow for much interpretation it was hard to see the depth in any character. It was all black and white instead of shades of grey which, in reality, is what war is about and I feel at some points my intelligence was being insulted by the blunt and stating the obvious nature of a play which would have been more powerful if I’d been given the information to draw my own conclusions.

Overall, Drones, Baby, Drones is a play with an important point to make. However, by underestimating the
audience’s ability to get the point it perhaps becomes a little over-zealous and becomes irritating rather than

3 Star Review

Review by Emily Diver

In This Tuesday, a CIA director learns her daughter has been injured in a car crash, a White House security adviser is sleeping with an intern, a Pentagon General is working out in the gym. It’s 5am. In an hour, they have a vital decision to make.

In The Kid, it’s Wednesday. A missile hits a wedding in Pakistan. 7000 miles away, two drone operators begin their celebration. Pushing the button was the start. If only it was the end…

Nicolas Kent, former Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre, directs This Tuesday by Emmy winner and Olivier nominee Ron Hutchinson (Moonlight and Magnolias, Rat in the Skull) and Sunday Times Chief Foreign Correspondent Christina Lamb (Nujeen, I Am Malala, Farewell Kabul).

Arcola Artistic Director Mehmet Ergen directs The Kid by multi award-winning playwright David Greig (The Events, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

Cast: Anne Adams, Joseph Balderrama, Sam Dale, Raj Ghatak, Tom McKay, Rose Reynolds.

Directors: Nicolas Kent and Mehmet Ergen
Design: Lucy Sierra
Lighting and Video Design:
Richard Williamson
Sound Designer: Neil McKeown
Production Manager:
Ben Karakashian
Casting: Marilyn Johnson
Costume Supervisor: Hanne Talbot

2nd to 26th November 2016


  • Emily Gami

    I am a 25 year old Geography teacher who really loves the theatre. I first fell in love with the theatre when I was 15 and since moving to London 4 years ago I have tried to see as many shows as possible. On the rare occasions I am not at work or at the theatre I can usually be found on a tennis court or curled up somewhere with a good book

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