The Drill

Home Theatre, Manchester; Thursday 14th June, 2018


In 2017, the UK government’s anti-terrorism spending was just over three quarters of a billion pounds. There is now a thriving training industry delivering courses which allow ordinary people to prepare themselves for the various effects of a terror attack. And the advice from the experts who deliver these courses seems to be the same: the training needs to be realistic, and that means it needs to be distressing.

The Drill by Breach Theatre is a intriguing study of the effects that this kind of training can have and how fear of the very worst can infringe upon the very reality that you’re wanting to protect.

On stage are three performers, though none seem to be in character as such, the proceedings suggest that they are simply being themselves. What plays out is a series of mini rehearsals, training sessions you might call them. Each mini session starts with the Terror Training Trio devising a potential real-life situation in which they may be exposed to a terror attack. It could happen in the train station, on the street, at work – it could happen anywhere.

This is a show built on high tension. There seems to be an ever increasing sense of desperation as each of the mini rehearsals finishes and the next one starts. An attacker with a knife is considered, as is the possibility of an assailant with a gun. But in their thirst to ensure that they’re prepared, is it possible that the Terror Training Trio might potentially be losing the plot? Are they so completely consumed with being prepared (whatever that might entail) that they’re no longer even a part of the safe reality that they’re seeking to defend?

To assist their on-stage self-defence manoeuvres, the Terror Training Trio regularly seek advice from the back wall of the theatre, where video clips from actual terror training experts serve to explain why we should all be prepared and how we should go about it. The expert’s advice is clear and strong: the training needs to be realistic, and that means it needs to be brutal.

All of which leads to an interesting question that seems to linger menacingly throughout this show: is there any difference between the acting that you might normally see in the theatre and the acting that you need to do in preparing for a terror attack? Are either of them real, or are they both portraying a world that you’ll probably never realistically ever have to deal with?

The Drill is a tense and deeply troubling examination of the thing that we call “terror”. This is high-tension theatre that isn’t going to answer any questions, instead it will just plant a whole world of uncertainty in your mind. As a result it seems to invoke a sense of infuriating incompleteness, but then that may just be a reflection of the mind’s desperate need to make the lingering fear of it all just go away.



Performance aspect Comments Score
Visual pleasure What would otherwise have been a rather banal depiction of a self-defence class was saved by the use of video footage from real-life terror training courses. A very sinister feel was created through use of these videos, the experts were clearly authoritative, yet no one who goes on these courses wants to believe that it will ever happen to them. 4
Auditory pleasure Sparse use of background music which helped to create the overall edgy atmosphere, could’ve done with a lot more though. 2
Architecture & Theme The show has no plot, instead it’s much more of a documentary-style exploration of what “terror” is and what it might mean to different people. Tended to drift off at certain points into directions that weren’t immediately clear, but the overall feeling of fear through uncertainty comes through strongly. 3
Artistic delivery Very powerful delivery from all three performers, probably aided by the fact that they weren’t playing characters as such, they were very much being themselves – this created a believable set of circumstances that the audience could go along with. 4
Overall impact Arouses a very strange set of emotions: a sense of denial that it could ever happen to me, but also a begrudging sadness that our collective response to terror might be making things unnecessarily worse for ourselves. 4
Final Score: 3.4


Scoring Scheme

0 Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse
1 Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor
2 Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special
3 Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way
4 Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive
5 Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.


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