I was excited that the Welsh play THE RADICALISATION OF BRADLEY MANNING was coming to town — especially after I learned that it had its premiere at the Clearing Barrel, the GI coffeehouse in Heidelberg. Melding themes of gender identity, the war in Iraq, and Welsh radicalism felt and is a worthy task.
And the performers last night at Philaadelphia’s Inis Nua Theatre, who traded off the role of “Bradley” among them as they shifted eras and roles, were terrific – engaging, comic and tragic by turns. In the photo above,Bradley Manning (Johnny Smith) downloads classified military intelligence while a fellow intelligence officer (David Glover) obliviously works behind him in Inis NuaTheatre Company’s American premiere of The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning by Tim Price. (Photos by Katie Reing)
Private Manning monitors the transfer of files she’s about to leak to Wikileaks -a few minutes before the entire cast shifts gears and dances to Lady Gaga:
Bits of this video show up on the stage’s monitors that for much of the evening had the Collateral Murder video, as if Gaga could replace the latter: as if someone could find in its joy some healing, some knitting apart of torn selves and torn hearts.
And the entire cast, which up until now had mostly kept their limber bodies pressed into military poses, begins to dance. They surround Manning and help her shed her clothing, until FOB Hammer becomes the most delicious underground dance club imaginable.
I’ll write more lucidly about the play later, but these are the scenes that were still in my head this morning:
- Manning lies tearfully in hir underwear while a procession of Marine prison guards circle the room, asking loudly whether Detainee was OK. The answer shifts repeatedly.
- A Welsh middle school social-studies classroom turns metaphor for class warfare, with students rioting and tormenting one another by turns
- The basic-training exercise where recruits have to keep emptying their packs, and then race to put everything back together.
The scenes in those years I find most compelling were there, but less memorable onstage. I really wish I’d seen it with an Iraq vet – or with Stephen Funk, who danced to Gaga and Michael Jackson as he enacted a far more powerful version of the same story two years ago.
More later, as I puzzle out what I actually think – as someone still striving tomake Manning’s story a coherent part of ours.