November 7th. The night before America goes to the polls to decide its new President. To be seeing Drones, Baby, Drones, a World Premiere about drone warfare, seems either prophetic or hubristic.
Just like the election Drones, Baby, Drones is a story of two halves. Commissioned from an original concept by Nicholas Kent, Emmy-winner Ron Hutchinson and prolific journalist and prose-writer Christina Lamb team together to write This Tuesday, whilst second half’s The Kid is written by David Greig, one of Scotland’s finest living playwrights.
Hutchinson and Lamb weave together the early morning strands of three pairs as they prepare for their regular Tuesday meeting. A General and his subordinate play basketball. A married White House security adviser slips away from the bed of an intern. Maxine, a CIA director, learns her daughter’s been gravely injured. Most mothers would be expected to stay – her daughter’s life hangs in the balance – but is Maxine willing to risk not being at the table this very specific Tuesday?
Whilst Hutchinson and Lamb examine the sacrifices we make, Greig explores the lengths we go to in his smart and succinct The Kid. It’s Wednesday and two couples are celebrating the outcome of a drone strike authorised the day previously. As the evening unfolds, collateral begins to emerge and expectant mother Alice strikes fear in the hearts of her friends by celebrating not only the creation of her own child but the destruction of another.
This Tuesday is an enlightening polemic against the ease of long-distance warfare and packs much drama into its forty-five mute frame. The writing presents recognisable (if slightly regressive) archetypes that allow scenes to move quickly and for characters to speak plainly, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Only sometimes do Hutchinson and Lambs’ authority speak more loudly than their characters’ own voices, however, it is clear that the piece seeks to educate rather than replicate people.
In The Kid short clipped scenes are replaced by a closed-space, closed-timed encounter in which characters are allowed to develop more fully and demand emotional investment. The theatre of war is replaced by the drama of humans. Whilst the characters and setting remain a little stock (the Dysfunctional Couple Dinner Party Play has been written by all from Albee to Ayckbourn), Greig sidesteps and upturns our preconceptions of his characters, creating a compelling and questioning drama.
Each play is modestly and marvellously directed. The textbook Kent insertion of verbatim text at the top of each show stilts proceedings a little however the production’s overall fluidity negates this nicely, with characters and scenes moving seamlessly together and around one another.
Anne Adams and Joseph Balderamma deliver standout and symbiotic performances. In This Tuesday, Adams is a commanding, convincing and uncompromising contrast to Balderamma’s rigid and judicial Jay. He then transforms into The Kid’s gobby, bouncy Ramon, whilst Adam slips down and settles into the languid and lugubrious Shawna. The rest of the cast are strong but by all means supporting, perhaps with the exception of Rose Reynold’s final alarmingly logical monologue as Alice.
Lucy Sierra’s design is inspired and versatile. Folding out and away to discreetly and efficiently reflect the faceless modernity of life in This Tuesday’s DC, projection and a live feed further the feeling of constant surveillance. Out in the “burbs” of The Kid, a homely and familiar lounge is the battleground of a much more alien discussion.
Drones, Baby, Drones is a competent – if slightly clinical – rebuke of the weaponisation of technology. Both plays have stylistic echoes that seem to stave off real theatrical authenticity – House of Cards for Hutchinson and Lamb, La Bute for Greig – however the stories’ accessibility allows us to grapple the enormity of the questions posed.
And this Tuesday being November 8th – this can only be a good thing.