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The Drill review at Battersea Arts Centre, London – ‘intriguing multimedia docudrama’

Amarnah Amuludun and Ellice Stevens in The Drill at Battersea Arts Centre, London. Photo: Dorothy Allen Amarnah Amuludun and Ellice Stevens in The Drill at Battersea Arts Centre, London. Photo: Dorothy Allen

Exploring the common anxieties underpinning contemporary life, The Drill is a smart, playful examination of the urge to over-prepare ourselves for future events.

Co-written by Billy Barrett and Ellice Stevens – who also performs – the show draws material directly from first aid and emergency response courses.

Three actors work through a series of exercises, sketching scenarios around plausible threats and rehearsing their responses. These alternate with overlapping anecdotes which touch on other, more everyday worries, from Stevens’ apocalyptic daydreams to Luke Lampard’s heartfelt description of a bad Grindr date.

Amarnah Amuludun, meanwhile, imagines a dead-end job which takes her to a busy station where she reflexively scans the crowd for suspicious behaviour. Eventually, these stories dovetail nicely, but for all the rich potential of the material, the execution feels shallow, a selection of strong ideas incompletely developed.

The show needs no set, and few props beyond a crash mat, fake blood, and a bag of rubble. Documentary footage directed by Dorothy Allen-Pickard plays throughout on two large screens, with the performers directing simple interview questions to pre-recorded safety experts.

An effective dance section comes in near the end, incorporating the physical actions the cast have been practicing – straight-armed chest compressions mixed with sharp pivots and flying elbows, all set to the roar of a Beethoven symphony.

Kieran Lucas’ sound design relies on atmospheric electronic pulses and rhythmic ticks, underscored with distant gunshots, or a soft but insistent siren like a nagging worry at the back of your mind.

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