31st July – 26th August (not 12th)
12.40 (60 mins)
Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Below)
Told against a backdrop of an extraordinary and dynamic soundscape, Wireless Operator reveals the emotional trauma of one single night in a Lancaster Bomber, during World War II, as a young crew hurtle through a terrifying frenzy of violence. Wireless Operator is the alarming new production which reveals the impact on the airmen who survived, and the lifelong legacy felt by their families.
Confined in a claustrophobic aircraft, a young crew struggle to survive. They avoid searchlights and flak, they witness fellow airmen blown out of the sky and they plunge into zero gravity corkscrew manoeuvres to evade enemy aircraft. But, as they unleash their deadly cargo onto the quiet city below, the real cost of their mission becomes unavoidable. This thrilling and visceral play uses daring production techniques to tell the story through the eyes and ears of the wireless operator.
Many young men were thrown into turmoil as a result of going out to drop bombs that obliterated towns of innocents and enemies. Their chances of survival from these missions were the same as a game of Russian Roulette. A generation of young men lived in extreme terror, experienced extreme physical hardship, were emotionally shattered but were required to keep going.
Writer Bob Baldwin comments, My father, a carpenter by trade and a pacifist by instinct, was a gentle, thoughtful and considerate man. After he died, I read his RAF log books and began to realise what it must have felt like for him to be compelled to carry out merciless acts of violence while also fully expecting to die. He felt no anger or hatred for his victims. I hope that Wireless Operator will increase awareness of the legacy of PTSD, not only for those currently suffering from it but also for those who went undiagnosed, untreated and who struggled – sometimes for
a lifetime – in silence.
To keep aircrew flying the Ministry of Defence invented the term ‘Lack of Moral Fibre’ (LMF). Men with LMF were effectively branded as cowards which was so humiliating that many chose to suppress their anguish and continue to fly. If someone was deemed to be ‘suffering’ from this, they were stripped of rank, paraded in public in their badgeless uniform, grounded and made to do menial tasks. Exposing the personal cost of victory, Wireless Operator acknowledges the burden passed down from generation to generation.