Socialist Worker

Brutal reality of US power exposed in new play on war

Arcola Theatre’s new production, Drones, Baby, Drones, has uncomfortable questions on warfare for a liberal conscience, writes Tomáš Tengely-Evans

Issue No. 2529

A scene from Drones Baby Drones

A scene from Drones Baby Drones


Most films and plays about drones focus on the “psychologically tortured” pilots without looking at the people they’ve murdered.

But Drones, Baby, Drones uses two plays to give a more nuanced and interesting look at the reality of the US and Britain’s wars.

The first play, This Tuesday, revolves around the infamous Tuesday morning meetings at the White House. Here the top brass, spooks and crooked government lawyers advise the outgoing US president Barack Obama on the next hit.

Like a Roman emperor, we’re told, the president points his thumbs up or down to decide.

Each scene focuses on different characters in the room—first up are CIA agent Maxine and lawyer Jay.

Despite being in hospital because her daughter was in a car crash, Maxine is determined to make the Tuesday meeting. They’ve been tracking a top Taliban commander for months—and now’s their chance.

But the problem is there will also be a Pakistani secret service agent and a wedding party in the village.

In each scene one character plays the role of the others’ liberal conscience. Meanwhile, between sets, a drone-like camera projects onto a screen—its target is the audience.

Resentful

Next up is the military, resentful of the CIA taking over the war. Captain Garcia tries to convince General Crow not to sanction the hit and capture the target for intelligence.

Staffer Doug argues with his lover Meredith who’s figured out where he goes on Tuesday mornings.

Slightly uncomfortably, you can end up agreeing with them instead of their consciences. As Doug asks, what’s Meredith’s objection to drones as opposed to bullets and tanks?

It’s not a comfortable question—if you don’t question the whole war.

This point is brilliantly brought home in the second play, The Kid.

At first, it seems like it will fall into the usual drone-production mould.

Pilots Seana and Pete, who’ve just taken out the Taliban target, are drinking with their partners. A dampner falls on the gross celebration when Seana reveals there was “collateral damage”—an Afghan child.

Pete’s partner Alice tries to defuse the situation arguing that the “point of war is killing kids”—why else would people fear the US?

Her speech is the play’s most absurd—but also the most truthful about the reality of US power globally.

Drones, Baby, Drones is on until 26 November. Go to arcolatheatre.com

 


Traitors, Cads and Cowards

In the military wing of Wandsworth Prison Liam, an Irish rebel from the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, has been brought to London for questioning.

He is bunked in with Alfred, a shell-shocked veteran of the trenches up on desertion charges. His other cell mate is Henry, a conscientious objector court martialed for refusing his call up papers.

Can three very different “Traitors to the King” find common ground?

Traitors, Cads and Cowards by Martin McNamara 11-12 November, West London Trade Union Club, London W3 6ND.

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