Drone – Traverse Theatre

Drone is a conceptual, thought-provoking and unique piece of art. It is an amalgamation of significant performance chops, canny and poetic spoken word, trippy projections, and especially impressive sound design which buzzes throughout the entire hour of performance.

The metaphorical ‘drone’ whose life is examined within the piece faces frustrations which feel profoundly human within the confines of her technological build and the lifestyle that reduces her to a piece of machinery. The statements within the script feel both sociological and personal.

Some of what makes Drone unique also makes it jarring. The show opens with the titular device, commandeered by a performer in camouflage attire. The drone hovers in front of its audience, the footage it records projected directly onto the screen that stretches across the back of the stage. Like lucky fans featured in the kiss-cam at a baseball game, audience members titter with laughter and wave at their blurry figures on the screen. It is the beginning of a performance that compels the audience to look inwardly and see themselves within the story of The Drone, a process that becomes more challenging as the show progresses.

Central to the performance is Harry Josephine Giles, award-winning poet whose spoken-word performance is inherent to the play’s meaningful nature and abstract enough to justify the absurd sound and projection design. Despite delivering the piece in third person, the audience gets the sense that Giles is The Drone herself. They stand tall in a long metallic silver dress, seeming the futuristic embodiment of the character the mechanical drone represents.

Giles never hesitates to throw themselves across the stage, at one memorable point sitting atop a filing cabinet, banging the drawers and scratching their fingernails across the sides as they lament the mundane, controlled nature of The Drone’s work life. As both writer and performer, they succeed in becoming a part of the play’s atmosphere through emotional delivery and making The Drone human.

The most unusual part of this production, however, is sound designed and mixed live by Neil Simpson. There is constant white noise in the background of the performance, buzzing and ringing as if you are reeling from a blow to the skull and without reprieve. This sometimes builds into ear-splitting screeches and hums that urge the audience to cover their ears. It is brutal and different and builds discomfort like an itch under the skin, intensely unpleasant, but ultimately effective.

The word ‘drone’ has several meanings, making it an apt theatrical metaphor. The drone is an unmanned piece of military equipment, it is a worker bee, it is an unending sound. This performance will not be for everyone, but for those who are looking to think a little harder at the theatre, it is not one to be missed.


PHOTOS: Traverse Theatre

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Julia Weingaertner

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