Review: Drone at Summerhall

Sometimes after a hard day’s work you just need to blow off some steam. Harry Josephine Giles’ drone is no different – even if the work should happen to be targeted remote killing. She – the drone-girl whose universes Giles narrates at a pronoun’s remove – still has to look after herself. What about a nature retreat? What about a wellness clinic, become a vegan, what about mindfulness? Giles’ urgent writing probes uncomfortable complicities, making cabaret of the covert slippages between work and violence, terror and terror, agency and The Agency.

Drone may be thematically complex, poetic, political, but it’s also electric theatre. It’s not just Giles’ show: in the backdrop, Jamie Wardrop’s live visuals play the image registers of sci-fi cinema, surveillance, warfare, gamer escapism and billboard aspirations with uncanny effect. But Giles dominates the stage, moves around the space with an alluring, sometimes malevolent grace. If there’s vulnerability to their performance it’s a controlled vulnerability, raw feeling already processed through countless training modules.

There aren’t words to describe how powerful Harry Josephine Giles’ voice becomes in Drone’s moments of climax. Augmented by devices, raised to a cyber-vatic throb by Neil Simpson’s crucial but discreet sounds, feeding off the audience’s awestruck gaze, Giles’ voice seems to exceed their body, like a dark divine tannoy. I thought of the turning point in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive: the singer falls to the ground unconscious but the song keeps singing. Drone is daring posthuman theatre, captivatingly executed.

Drone, Summerhall, 31 Jul – 17 Aug (not 1, 12), 7.10pm

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