Theatre in Wales

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Critical Acclaim Continues

At National Theatre Wales

The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning- National Theatre Wales , St Thomas of Aquin’s High School , August 22, 2013
At National Theatre Wales by The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning- National Theatre Wales From the Scotsman

“Sometimes, a show appears on the Edinburgh Fringe that is so timely that it seems as though it must have been created yesterday. The National Theatre of Wales’ The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning is not a brand-new show; it was first seen in April in Haverfordwest, the Welsh town where Manning spent some of his teenage years.

“Yet the military verdict on Bradley Manning was handed down just two weeks ago, finding him guilty of all but one of the grave charges against him; and now, the NTW’s terrific show about the shy US army intelligence specialist who became the source of a huge wave of Wikileaks revelations about US foreign policy is drawing huge, excited audiences to the converted school hall at St Thomas of Aquin’s, which, in director John E McGrath’s fluent and passionate production, becomes a series of US bases across America and Iraq, and also a classroom in the comprehensive school in south Wales where Manning learned his first lessons in radicalism.

“In style, McGrath’s production follows John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett’s Black Watch, using the choreography, strict discipline and simmering violence of army life to create a series of unforgettable stage pictures; in a brilliant gesture that mirrors the I Am Bradley Manning website recently set up to support him, every one of the cast of four men and two women plays Bradley at different times, signalling the shift by simply assuming his trademark pair of thick spectacles.”

From Three Weeks

“If you only have time to see one show at the Fringe, it most definitely should be this one. Documenting the last ten years of the Wikileaks whistleblower soldier Bradley Manning, the National Theatre of Wales delivers an unrelenting and uncompromising account of Manning’s journey to incarceration.

"The highly energetic, committed and gifted cast seamlessly change from character to character at various points of Manning’s life, with the actor in the lead role being interchangeable depending on the time period. The company have used the space they are in wonderfully and the entire staging of the piece really creates a truly cinematic experience. Thankfully, intimacy is not sacrificed despite the scale and the whole piece is incredibly emotive.”

From British Theatre Guide

“Tim Price’s play seeks to understand what makes someone rebel against the establishment and risk permanent incarceration for a principle.

“The Welsh connection comes through Bradley’s mother, who hails from there and, after a separation, brought the lad across the Atlantic to complete his schooling.

"Soon enough, the tiny, bespectacled Welshman with the American accent is bullied, though he also took on board his teacher’s favoured examples of radicalism from the country’s history.

“School scenes are interleaved with those from army life at different periods. The common thread is bullying, the bright boy with a taste for computer programming facing degradation from comrades at every turn.

“Though the links are not always fully proven, Bradley is eventually driven mad by his treatment as well as being frustrated about the injustices perpetrated in Iraq, eventually cracking and sharing military secrets with the world.”

From the Telegraph

“This play about him, produced by National Theatre Wales, arrives in Edinburgh already garlanded with praise: its writer, Tim Price, has just won the prestigious James Tait Black Prize for his script, and its Welsh premiere last year was critically acclaimed. It’s not difficult to see why: this is a thoughtful, high-energy production, with one of the most hard-working young casts I’ve seen at the Fringe so far.

“Staged semi-immersively in a high school - to reach the auditorium, you pass along eerie corridors, where US soldiers cock rifles in empty classrooms - Price’s play skips between fictional depictions of Manning’s unhappy teenage years in Haverfordwest (where his mother still lives) and his imprisonment today, via his army training, tracing the roots of his “radicalisation”.

"It’s a potent word, more readily associated with terrorism, and its source is never pinpointed exactly. But a clear picture emerges of Manning - bullied through school and the army for his height, looks and sexuality - less as a man committed to truth-telling, than as a miserable outsider, desperate to make his mark.

“John E McGrath’s production does a brilliant job of engaging with the play’s many locations - computer screens at each corner of the stage flash up the details of each place - and raises the benchmark for the online potential of theatre: each performance is being live-streamed. But the greatest credit goes to the cast, who run, shout and jump their way through each scene of this slick, compelling drama with utter conviction.”

From the Independent

“This National Theatre Wales show, originally staged last year, is obviously a timely addition to the Fringe – Manning will be sentenced this week, facing up to 90 years in prison, with the prosecution calling for 60.

"The real-life school setting is neat, and in the – wholly imagined – scenes at a Haverfordwest high, Manning's class learn about Welsh revolutionaries, the Rebecca Riots, the Newport and Merthyr Risings. The subject and definition of martyrdom is explored, and Manning proves himself capable of both barn-storming rhetoric, and of breaking the rules to follow his convictions. It's schematic, but effective, Price convincingly envisioning an education that sowed for the seeds for this 21-year-old's extraordinary action just a few years later.

“It’s a hugely sympathetic portrait, although Manning is presented as personally troubled as well as radicalised: the bullying, a relationship break-up, a sense of never fitting in, an anxiety about the injustice of the war he is helping wage, and a desire for some kind of personal glory all weigh heavily on a naturally explosive personality. This is a troubled man, and his decision - though brave - is also rash. It sure makes for compelling drama, too.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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