Te Auaha - Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

08/11/2019 - 09/11/2019

Verb Festival 2019

Production Details

If a drone could descend to earth to tell you her story, what would she say? Drone is the tragicomic autobiography of the 21st century’s strangest and most frightening technology. With live poetry, music and video, this glitchy cabaret spectacular is a tender, furious and bleakly funny drone’s-eye-view of anxiety, violence, surveillance, work and survival.

Drone is daring posthuman theatre, captivatingly executed.” – Edinburgh Festivals Magazine.

Written by the Forward-shortlisted Scottish poet Harry Josephine Giles and performed by them with international sound artist Neil Simpson (Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo) and live video artist Jamie Wardrop (Beats, The Dwelling Place), Drone is the astonishing culmination of five years of work.

Directed by Rob Jones, the performance is mixed new every night, the three artists making a live cabaret band for an intense and groundbreaking multimedia gig theatre. Second show on Saturday 9 (page 29).

Proudly supported by Creative Scotland.

Te Auaha, Tapere Iti
Friday 8 & Saturday 9 November 2019

Harry Josephine Giles is from Orkney, Scotland, and is a writer and performer. They have lived on four islands, each larger than the last. They trained in Theatre Directing (MA, East 15 Acting School, 2010) and Sustainable Development (MA, University of St Andrews, 2009) and their work generally happens in the crunchy places where performance and politics get muddled up.

As a performer, Harry Josephine has toured their performance lecture This is not a riot toured to Italy in 2012, and their one-to-one show What We Owe has toured European festivals 2013-17, including in Slovenia, Latvia and Romania. What We Owe was listed in the Guardian’s “Best of the Edinburgh Fringe” 2014 round-up — in the “But is it art?” section. They also do vocals in the punk band Fit To Work. Their current show is Drone, a poetry, video and sound show about technology, gender and anxiety, and is part of the 2019 Made in Scotland showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe (and debuts in New Zealand at Verb Festival).

Theatre , Performance Art ,

1 hr

Very relatable humanising of the inhumane

Review by Claire O’Loughlin 11th Nov 2019

Drone is a live poem: a blazing, intense, distorted layering of performance, sound and visuals, telling the lonely, darkly absurd story of life as a military done. It is a multi-dimensional experience in which each element enriches the poem by pulling it apart and building it again.

A mechanical, buzzing noise fills the theatre. A small Drone is hovering over the stage, almost invisible against the black. Immediately all my vague fears about drones surface – is it filming me? Is it going to attack me? How do I get out of here? But also, this little drone is quite cute. She is very small and alone in the air, quivering like a nervous hummingbird.

When writer-performer Harry Josephine Giles enters and the poem begins, the Drone drops into their hands and they become her/she becomes them. Dressed in a brilliant, silver full-length dress, Giles is metallic and futuristic. They explore the space of the small stage fully, sometimes standing tall and still centre stage like a luminous missile, at other times curled up in a foetus on the floor whispering into the microphone. Their expressive physicality brings a complex, human energy into an otherwise inhumane world.

Pixelated, computerised visuals by James Wardrop and loud, distorted sound designed and operated by Neil Simpson, create a dark, disorientating world that the drone moves through. Images of shifting landscapes seen from drones-eye-view give the sense of a constantly flying, searching, lonesome soul who sees the world from the outside, emotionally as well as physically detached from it.

Yet the Drone is very human. She is an office worker in an unfulfilling, anxiety-inducing job. She has a brother who delivers pizzas for a living. Snapshots of recognisable but warped scenes like rows of empty office chairs are dream-like, and the images and sound seem to be as much the internal chaos in her head as they are her computerised processing of the real world. It is very relatable.

For me it is about the loneliness, detachment, anxieties and ultimately atrocities that can unwittingly occur when we stop feeling human and connected, and just feel like a small cog in a machine. Earlier in the week I went to Nicky Hager’s talk on surveillance in New Zealand at City Gallery, and one of the things that gripped me was the stories of the NZ Ministry of Defence workers who find themselves, as part of their regular office jobs, providing information that leads to bombs being dropped on villages in other countries. Dropping bombs is just a normal day job for some New Zealanders, though Hager was quick to urge us to think of the unseen emotional toll on those workers, and how appalled we should be not just by what they are doing, but also by what is expected of them.

In Drone, the Drone’s stressful job causes burn out and she goes on secondment with an environmental charity in Africa to recover. There she connects to the real, natural world again and we see that peaceful, fulfilling work is available, but only at someone else’s decision.

For me the most gripping moments are the extremes, when the Drone presents as either extremely human, such as when she gets a cat, or when she reminds us that she is a war machine, like the powerful looping of the line “I have bombs, I have bombs, I have bombs…”. It is terrifying but I want more of that. I want to feel the power and inhumanity of the machinery of war, in order to remember how important taking humane, human responsibility for it is.

At the end, Giles gently releases the little drone back into the air. I’ve got to know her a bit now so I’m not fearful of her anymore, but I am fearful of how alone those operating machines/those people operating in a machine-like system are feeling. I’m left with the thought that we will always have the ability and technology to do awful things, but if we could be more connected, if we could take more responsibility for not just ourselves but for looking after each other, maybe we will stop acting on it.


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