Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper

Four stars

Sometimes it’s hard to break free from the daily grind when all you do is cruise around, watching from on high at a safe distance, seemingly sheltered from the blast. So it goes in Harry Josephine Giles’ episodic meditation on the half-life and times of a remote-controlled drone. Given a personality, a back-story and a routine of Sisyphean drudgery akin to a robotic office girl doing as she’s told, there is little chance of shattering any kind of glass ceiling, even as she is released into the world to film the audience at the top of the show.

Accompanied by a John Carpenter style live electronic score composed and played live by a Dr Phibes-like Neil Simpson, Giles’ leap into the void is a quasi-kitchen-sink fantasia that could have been cut up from the pages of a hippy sci-fi zine and given the flesh and blood gravitas of a fable. Key to this too is Jamie Wardrop’s barrage of projections, so we initially see things through a drone’s eye view as a glammed-up Giles incants over the sonic and visual assault that blasts in from all sides.

In this sense, Giles’ performance in Rob Jones’ production becomes a piece of neo-classicist soothsaying. The dystopian mythology it conjures up humanises the mechanical and vice versa, as Giles by turns leaps into action or else speaks into the microphone from the inside of a filing cabinet. It’s a provocative compendium of life during wartime, with each bite-size chapter beginning innocuously enough before the drone threatens to zoom off into the unknown, then coming back down to earth, usually with a bump. When the drone does find wings enough to break free, by the end she is flying high, looking at the stars and beyond.