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REVIEW: 'The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning'

Chris Balbi

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Bowtie Boy has been trekking around philly for 3 years. He enjoys theatre, beer gardens and intellectual conversations that lead nowhere. When he's not free-lancing his social media management and digital marketing strategies, he's at home in his underwear watching Dr. Who and eating Reese's puffs.
posted by Chris Balbi on May 2, 2016 10:30am | comments


My favorite thing about theatre is the objectivitiy to it.  You can see a play with 20 people, and get 20 varied opinions on the shows theme, arc, signfigicance and relevancy.  The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning is no exception, this one act play is filled with so many talking points, keeping this review short enough to read on a coffee break (the goal of all reviews) is going to be tough.

Ready for your first plot twist?  Not only is Bradley Manning a kick ass "martyr," he is also a trans woman, named Chelsea.  Because the show in review focuses on Bradley pre-transition, I'll be referring to her as him. We should probably start with a quick recap of who Bradley Manning is, straight from Wikipedia itself- "Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987, is a United States Army soldier who was convicted in July 2013 of violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly three-quarters of a million classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years' imprisonment, with the possibility of parole in the eighth year, and to be dishonorably discharged from the Army.

But what about the show?  I had a chance to talk with Director Tom Reing about the process of getting "TRoBM" off the page and onto the stage. 

C: As a director, did you find "The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning" to be challenging? 

It's hugely challenging with 31 scenes and multiple location told out of chronological order. But it is also massively fun and I am blessed with a talented chastened inventive designers.

C: That was actually on of my favorite aspects of the show, the time jumping felt frustrating at first, but it became clear that it was almost intentional.  The playwrite (Tim Price) seemed to be encouraging a sense of confusion and disoreientation, similar to the way Bradley Manning must have felt changing jobs, schools and countries so rapdily growing up.

C: Is there a target audience? What do you hope they'll take away?

I hope people learn the story of Chelsea Manning. Although fictionalized, playwright Tim Price got a great deal right. Even though Price wrote it during Manning's trial and it was announced three days after her sentencing she wanted to be known as Chelsea, it is kinda already in the play.  As far as a targeted audience, I think our plays are for people who love a good story and not necessarily for Anglophiles and Irish interests individuals. This is a universal story.

Part of what made the story so facistating to watch as a viewer was it's timelyness, while the show unfortunatley doesn't touch on transgender issues, knowing Bradley Manning is facing adversery for his feelings (ultimatley causing him to lash out) can be parelled by the hundreds of transgender people that are currently fighting for the right ot use a damn bathroom. 

C: Without giving away any spoilers, is there a particular scene you're fond of?

I'm fond of the Welsh classroom scenes. (Manning spent her teen years in Wales and seeing my actors talk in a Welsh accent is great.)

Watching the classroom scenes were eye opeing to me, they were a reminder that the effects of childhood events can leave long lasting impressions on adults.  

C: Is your next project lined up yet? Where can the readers see your work next?

We are finalizing our season shortly. I wish I could tell you but I can only say we will be bringing contemporary, provocative plays from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. We're looking forward to making the Drake our home for years to come.

What this show got right was it's ability to tell a story with 6 actors sharing the role of one protagonist. The use of video was perfectly baanced across the perfectly decorated space and used approparitely.  The sound scape created kept me engaged through the duration of the performance and I reccomend this show to anyone lookign to expand thier knowledge on current events. 

As a whole I enjoyed my evening, but ultimatley I felt the show had two issues, each opposite of each other.  I felt the show had some holes that needed to be filled or fleshed out, and I felt it ended too ubruptly, I wanted to know about the trial and how Bradley's sexuality and gender came into play during the hearings.  In the same breath I ask for a longer show, I also felt the show had some fat that could have been trimmed., with two particular scenes running just a bit too long, they started to suffer from "beating a dead horse" syndrome.

Bringing this review full circle, don't take my opinions as the standard, get your butt to Philly's newest theatre space at The Drake and check out  Inis Nua's latest show running through 5/15!  More Info Here. 


NOTE: Opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of or of any organization or business that the author is assosciated with.

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