The Radicalisation of bradley manning
Bay Studios, Fabian WAy, Swansea
I have no choice.’ Those are the final words from Bradley Manning in Tim Price’s thought-provoking play, The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning, performed by the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre Company (wgytc) on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4that the old Ford stores site on Fabian Way.
Many people will have been aware that the former US soldier, now Chelsea Manning, was jailed for 35 years for releasing “sensitive government documents” about activity during Iraq and Afghan wars to WikiLeaks. Pardoned by President Obama in 2017, the play was written whilst Manning was still in prison, and a deeply divisive figure in the US.
Fewer people will have known that Manning spent some of her formative years inHaverfordwest and over 90 minutes, Price weaves the history of Welsh radicalism along with biographical details of Manning’s life.
The huge, empty industrial building was transformed by the company, once again showing the prodigious depth of technical talent in wgytc. The performers – at times soldiers, at others pupils, students, workers in ‘dead end’ jobs and Iraqi citizens – created an extraordinary canvas for the drama to play out.
Intense, physical and at key moments disturbing, the audience was given a glimpse into the brutalising elements of army life and the realities of warfare. Manning felt compelled to expose action she saw as indiscriminate, such as the infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ video where gunfire from an Apache helicopter lead to the death of two Reuters news staff as well as civilians in an Iraqi suburb.
Fast-paced choreography matched the frenetic unfolding of Manning’s life and incarceration. The young company never fail to impress with the depth of their talent – with six actors playing Manning and each communicating aspects of her vulnerability, anger and distress at key moments in her life.
At the outset, the audience was assaulted by soldiers yelling slogans including ‘Bradley Manning is a traitor’, and ‘Bradley Manning is a hero’. Contradictory, and deliberately so, but as they left the building, all could agree that wgytc mastered and brought a fresh intensity to this bold and brave piece.