Whistleblower is a shrewd and topical show which makes a brave attempt at highlighting current issues such as national security, the rights of citizens, war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the plight of whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. Irish immersive theatre company ImmerCity produce a show which invites the audience to act as the jury in the trial of an informant accused of aiding the enemy. The audience are presented with a folder of evidence and a ballot paper; we were given the impression that our will alone determines the outcome of the trial and ultimately the play itself.
The content of this show is excellent; both Clancy Flynn's writing and its interpretation onstage are strong and ooze professionalism. Victoria Jane Appleton and Geraint Hill are entirely convincing as opposing counsels but it is Sam Trueman, portraying the title role, who is most impressive. Seated behind glass and in handcuffs throughout, Trueman acts with every muscle even when the audience's attention is focused on other characters.
Whistleblower has a distinct Brechtian flavour from the outset. Before entering the courtroom, the audience are assured by The Operator, played by Matthew Reynolds, that the events they are about to witness are fictitious, and merely a sketch of similar events which have taken place in reality. This is of course the fashion of Brecht's 'epic theatre', and is done very well by ImmerCity. The choice of titles for the four characters, as opposed to names – The Prosecutor, The Activist, The Whistleblower, The Operator – is also favoured by writers of epic theatre designed to encourage the audience to think rather than simply to empathise; a very effective technique when dealing with this particular subject matter.
There is a slight contradiction within the production which detracts from its immersive nature. Despite the fact that the play appears to have been designed to inform the audience before allowing them to draw their own conclusions, it is obvious from a sheet of further information provided at the close of the play that the production itself has some bias in terms of its opinions on government treatment of whistleblowers.
However, the play is incredibly informative, and the sheet provided does well to encourage further thought on the questions raised in the performance, demonstrating ImmerCity's dedication not only to this production but also to the causes that it highlights. This is a show of great consequence, which illustrates brilliantly how important and thought-provoking art can be.