Verbatim theatre – where the dialogue is taken straight from the testimonies of real people. I like this concept as you can be sure that there’s no embellishment. There can be clever editing and manipulation but it gains force by being largely unmediated. TV and the contemporary thirst for reality on TV has pushed theatre in this direction. Blackwatch is a verbatim masterpiece.
I’ve been to Deepcut, and many other military establishments, and there can be no doubt that military training is stuck in a dangerous rut. The idea that one has to strip away personality through bullying, brutalization and beasting, in order to rebuild a disciplined soldier has had its day. It’s a frontline, infantry, warrior technique that is totally unsuited to a modern military that needs smart, skilled young people. Far too many young trainees die before they even leave the training camp. That’s more than a tragedy – it’s murder.
It is expected that soldiers die in combat. We hear far less about the dozens of soldiers who die in accidents. Of the 4139
Gavin Williams died this year of hyperthermia, after being sadistically ‘beasted’ by NCOs, after a officer demanded that he be punished, so lessons have clearly not been learnt. The army has a cadre of NCOs who act as a brutalizing force and barrier between the higher ranks and ordinary soldiers. This leaves the higher ranks free to deny all wrong doing. Four young people died at Deepcut in a regime that accepted slapping, punching, throwing objects at people and running over overweight trainees on bikes. A independent coroner believes they were murdered, but even if they had committed suicide, isn’t that enough to cause serious concern?
One would hope that plays like this would have some effect, but they won’t. The audiences that watch them don’t allow their kids to go anywhere near the military and if they do, it’s straight to officer training. However, it’s good to see theatre do a little more that recycle.