DESERT To 1 June.


by Edward Fortes.

Bike Shed Theatre 162-3 Fore Street EX4 3AT To 1 June 2013.
29, 31 May, 1 June 7.30pm
Runs 1hr No interval.

TICKETS: 01392 434169.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 May.

Distanced but informative theatrical examination of secrets and truths.
Two days after The Molino Group’s Bike Shed Theatre run ends, the court-martial begins. After keeping am allegedly dangerous, democracy-threatening, half-American, half-Welsh terrorist in prison for 3 years, the American forces’ justice system is going to consider whether he’s guilty or not.

Which he almost certainly is; he’s ’fessed-up to enough to ‘earn’ 20 years inside, but more’s being thrown at him. So the questions are, guilty of what and are there mitigating circumstances? Bombs thrown: zero; grenades chucked: likewise. Bullets shot: none. Mysterious oriental poisons administered: zilch.

Private Bradley Manning had such IT skill he was given unprecedented access to computers for one of rank so low. However, through conscience or cussedness, he decided that it would be beneficial to democracy if people knew some of the behaviour of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So Manning is on trial for telling – or showing – the truth. His case re-opens the tension between people’s rights to know what’s done in their name, and the state’s right to operate with the security of concealment. Neither is easy to dismiss, and it’s unsurprising they clash.

Using words – spoken and projected – both from Manning and created for the show, with screened and live images, Edward Fortes’ script and the Group’s elliptical two-hander demonstrates evidence of deadly acts by Americans abroad included in Manning’s revelations and the determined punishment of someone not even securely adjudged guilty. In high-security confinement till recent months, he had to spend 16 hours daily in a small cell without lying-down or leaning against a wall, and forbidden to exercise.

Lighting makes the point, reducing to the small rectangle of his cell, before opening to a spread of sunlight for Manning’s brief daily exercise outside. Continually, he’s harried by a voice loudly asking if he’s all right, and demanding the reply ‘Affirmative’. It’s harassment lightly disguised as support.

Sometimes direct information might have told more, more quickly, than Molino’s oblique multi-media approach. But points are firmly made. And may have to be made again; it seems for every fact Manning revealed, ninety-nine more remain in state computers. Some secret iceberg.

Cast: Giles Roberts, Lucy Farrett.

Director: Bethany Pitts.
Lighting: Sam Hollis-Pack.
Sound: Joseph Thorpe.
Movement: Ali Baybutt
Artwork: Gabriel Assis.

2013-05-28 10:20:02

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