by Tim Price.

National Theatre Wales Tour to 28 April 2012.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 April at Connah’s Quay High School.

Constant energy and invention in a “fantasy” built on reality.

Schools are eerily quiet most Saturday nights. But Connah’s Quay High was eerily noisily as audiences passed individually along a marked pathway, military sounds emanating from empty rooms. Militarily-dressed actors assign each person a chair to place in a marked square. It feels oppressive, though doubtless it’s just health and safety.

Tim Price’s play is a high-energy zigzag through the youth of Bradley Manning, an American soldier undergoing indeterminate detention for allegedly endangering US forces in Iraq by passing thousands of classified e-mails to Wikileaks.

Price’s “political fantasy” (the production’s so hedged around with assurances of fiction, it’s surprising they even use Manning’s name) searches through a hectic series of scenes for the elusive motivation behind the actions of this complex individual: truculent, arrogant, an unreliable team-player, a super-whizz with computers who was dragged into further army service because of his computer skills.

National Theatre Wales is interested as the American spent several years at school in Haverfordwest, where one teacher’s lessons focus repeatedly on rebellions – with an authority-figure on call if authority breaks down.

This teacher’s about the only person to show any interest in Bradley – while rebuking him whenever the class sets him up; Manning was bullied at school. Scenes in Wales recur among the American story of his gay rights activities, attempts to cope with basic training in the army and detention.

As a child Bradley wanted to join the army. As a youth he was steered there because it offered him free education in his new love, computers. He notices lax security, and one question the “fantasy” raises is how much his detention is based on his uncovering faulty procedures in the military. Added to whether his leaks endangered anyone or, rather, showed-up procedures more conveniently kept quiet.

Theatrically, John E McGrath’s production of this “fantasy” is fantastic. A pair of spectacles identify Manning as the role passes swiftly between the energetically youthful actors. It’s furiously-paced and loud, up to the final fiesta of paper – even the indistinct moments in the echoing sports-hall acoustic of a production in-the-round enhancing the sense of confusion around Bradley Manning.

Cast: Matthew Aubrey, Harry Ferrier, Gwawr Loader, Kyle Rees, Sion Daniel Young, Anjana Vasan.

Director: John E McGrath.
other production credits not available.

2012-04-30 00:40:55

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