The Drill: Staging a disaster

“ The Drill was inspired by Cold War civil defence drills. Through these exercises, members of the public in the UK and United States were prepared by their governments for the event of a nuclear attack through different types of ‘rehearsal’. These ranged from ‘duck and cover’ drills in schools to large-scale immersive events in which people lived in fallout shelters for extended periods of time. “We were hooked by the psychology of what it is to imagine yourself into a possible future disaster and then to play it out theatrically, as a way of being better prepared. “We came across photographs of a modern-day disaster drill, Exercise Unified Response. They built a replica of Waterloo Station in a warehouse outside London and filled it with volunteer actors as a way of testing the response of our emergency services to a large-scale incident in central London. “We were fascinated by how these spectacles, broadcast to the public via the news, seemed to theatrically ‘stage’ the widespread anxieties around urban security and terrorism. [caption id="attachment_273810" align="alignnone" width="300"]The Drill by Breach Theatre (Image: Dorothy Allen Pickard) The Drill by Breach Theatre (Image: Dorothy Allen Pickard)[/caption] “After looking at these professional training drills, we became interested in the types of disaster training aimed at members of the public. “Our cast began researching this process by going on a series of courses provided by private security companies. The aim was to create a sequence of drills they could carry out on stage. “We devised a fictional strand of the show in which the cast play characters exploring personal anxieties around jobs, family life and relationships. We wanted to contrast these with broader political anxieties. “The show we eventually created is a multimedia production. It combines both theatre and film. The live strand of our show intercuts the monologues with a series of disaster drills that build to an extended final scenario. [caption id="attachment_273811" align="alignnone" width="300"]The Drill by Breach Theatre (Image: Dorothy Allen Pickard) The Drill by Breach Theatre (Image: Dorothy Allen Pickard)[/caption] “The film follows the cast during the real emergency-preparedness courses they undertook earlier, in 2017 – First Aid, Active Shooter Awareness and IED [improvised explosive device] Awareness. It shows them learning practical skills and also interviewing their trainers about the security industry and its use of scenario-based training. “All the trainers used the same mantra: ‘Knowledge dispels fear.’ So one of our key questions was: ‘Can knowledge actually generate fear?’ The conversation about whether that claim is true or not is present in both film and theatre strands. “ The Drill was co-commissioned by five venues who are part of our regular touring network – Battersea Arts Centre, The Bike Shed Theatre, HOME Manchester, The New Diorama Theatre and Birmingham Rep. “We’re really pleased to have all of their support on this, and are particularly excited about opening the show in London at Battersea Arts Centre with a two-week run rather than in Edinburgh as we have done with our last couple of shows.”

The Drill runs at Battersea Arts Centre until 17 February and at The New Diorama Theatre from 15 to 26 May.

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