Drumhead Event Review

A moral conundrum is given an nontheatrical bite

Article by Gareth K Vile | 17 May 2010
  • Drumhead

Perhaps unsurprisingly, two of Mayfesto’s strongest productions have shown close links to Live Art : Cora Bisset’s monologue and RWP’s Drumhead both escape the traditional script and deliver a more dynamic presentation.

Having bussed their audience to a secret location in the East End, RWP strip away the usual trappings of theatre – no names, no stage – to demonstrate the technique of enhanced interrogation. The after-show discussion is integral: the state of Ben Allison following his performance as the victim is an eloquent comment on the intensity of the process.

Frodo McDaniel lends some degree of humanity to the interrogator, questioning the morality of his actions and even disappointed in its possible failure. Beyond this, the refusal to sketch out the two characters lends Drumhead a bitter immediacy.

Posing as an official demonstration of the latest in interrogation, the performance is an hour of torture. The victim is hooded, anonymous: his back story is introduced incidentally, merely to prove how normal he is. The techniques gradually increase in violence, although McDaniel notes that “this is not torture” and is carefully calculated to use the victim’s imagination rather than brute force. The finale, a spot of water-boarding, is appropriately horrific and resolves nothing.

Drumhead simply seeks to question the legitimacy of water-boarding. It offers the justifications, presents the act, and enough information for discussion. It does not fall back into narrative or melodrama, becoming a cold, steady stare at the sharp end of the War on Terror. It is disturbing, and suitably restrained.

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