- Gareth K Vile
- 15 April 2019
A poetic engagement with contemporary alienation and domination
Harry Josephine Giles' script – a collection of poetic episodes ranging around the life of a drone that appears to be both a frustrated office worker and a weapon of surveillance and destruction – is driven by a power sense of social alienation and the sense that merely existing within a capitalist society is enough to ensure complicity with its more vicious behaviours. Over an hour, Giles describes the drone's moral ambivalence and attempts to shake off the hovering doubt that her life is meaningless or inextricably tangled with the imperialist agenda of the neo-liberal state. Despite a late interlude that is a list of answers to questions that the audience might have, Giles offers no resolution, no solutions, but articulates the mundane anguish of an individual trapped by circumstance.
The drone conceit is powerful: slipping between human and technological definitions of identity, she is sometimes a human body, other times a machine. Giles' delivery of their words is self-conscious and arch, creating a distance between the performer and the material, but never quite inhabiting a fully theatrical presentation – the audience interaction is limited and underwhelming, but Jamie Wardrop's visuals combine with Neil Simpson's jarring, evocative soundscape in a disorientating whirl. By roaming thematically around the drone's existential troubles, Giles avoids making a killer hit, leaving an atmosphere of tension without release.
If the format is familiar, never quite escaping its foundation in spoken word performance, Giles covers a wide range of issues, from veganism as a consumer choice, to charity as a method for assuaging guilt and the violent potential of apparently innocent consumer items – the drone that appears at the start of the show has a disarmingly charming appearance – and provokes intellectual responses to the relationship between the state of war and consumerist culture. While it holds back from sharp, emotive appeals or reaching towards an immersive experience, it is a solid, thought-provoking and sensitive analysis of how compromise becomes inevitable in the struggle for meaning and morality.