THE RADICALISATION OF BRADLEY MANNING

The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning

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On the 30th of July 2013 twenty four year old Bradley Manning was sentenced to ninety years in prison for divulging military secrets and his part in the Wikileaks scandal which allegedly placed US military personnel as well as the American public in grave danger although no evidence to confirm this has ever been conclusively proved.

 Stepping into the venue we are advised to follow the arrows and immediately we enter a warren-like space taking the shape of a military base with sleeping quarters, shooting ranges, computer and technology areas all overlaid with the rousing sound of call and response military cadence eventually leading us into the main hall, busy with fatigued personnel, where the sound of distant gunfire and Tower of Babble-like voices indicate we are now in a war zone. It is an impressive atmospheric start to what must be the most up to the minute intense, exhilarating, awesome piece of contemporary and relevant theatre on the Fringe this year.

 Produced by National Theatre Wales( Manning spent his teenage years in Wales after his parents divorced) the cast have interchangeable roles with Manning’s persona denoted by a pair of glasses which are shared out amongst several cast members to signify different facets of this complex character. Imaginatively directed by John E. McGraph, who makes good use of the surroundings which play a role all of their own, he manoeuvres the small but flexible cast- Matthew Aubrey, Naomi Everson, Harry Ferrier, Michael Gilhooly, Gwawr Leader and Kyle Rees- through their paces and Tim Price’s script with an appropriately military precision.

 It is certainly an enthralling piece of theatre and Manning’s displacement began around the time of his move to Wales where he clearly felt set apart. Openly gay, he was pressurised into the army by a domineering father who hoped it would make a man of him. This was not to be the case and Manning started to look into gender re-assignment and the treatment he suffered at the hands of his colleagues- severe taunting and brutal beatings-can’t have done much to improve his loyalty to a military service he already viewed as corrupt and morally wrong.

 Matters only worsened when several pieces of footage showing the slaying of innocent civilians fell onto his radar and disgusted by the subsequent cover up he leaked the information and found himself accused of treason by one side and hailed a hero from another. Basically all he did was tell the truth about war in the 21st century and expose the US government and military as the hypocrites many only previously believed or imagined they were. Manning merely handed them the proof.

This is an absorbing, demanding,impressive and excellently executed piece of drama which could not be more current if it tried. It is extremely serious but less anxious moments  are inserted at crucial moments- Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ provides a relief from the tension whilst maintaining the intention and takes on a whole new poignancy I would never previously have afforded it- and it is all encompassing as the drama seems to unfold from every crevice of the building. This is THE major drama of this year’s Fringe and it raises the bar for everyone else.

*****

The Radicalisation Of Bradley Manning is showing at Pleasance St. Thomas of Aquins School at 7.30pm until August 25th

http://www.pleasance.co.uk/edinburgh/events/the-radicalisation-of-bradley-manning

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