In May 2010, Adrian Lamo snitched on Bradley Manning (who has since become Chelsea Manning) for leaking US government secrets. In August 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Inspired by the 2010 WikiLeaks scandal, Sky Gilbert’s latest play, Hackerlove, imagines, What if Lamo and Manning had been romantically involved?
Gilbert’s Manning and Lamo (played by Nick Green and Kawa Ada) are named for, and have some of the characteristics of, the real-life Manning and Lamo, but it would be difficult to mix them up. “In my play, Bradley and Adrian have sex and do all sorts of crazy things they never did in real life. I know they talked a lot online, but I don’t think they ever met,” Gilbert says.
He uses the affair mainly as a tool to explore the interplay between two people who have very different personality types, one that is “fact-based and rational” and one that is “idealistic, emotional and romantic.” In the play, Lamo is the former and Manning the latter. “[Hackerlove] is about how two people like that could get along when they’re so opposite,” Gilbert says.
While any odd pair could have been pressed into service for the experiment, Manning and Lamo are so unusual that Gilbert couldn’t resist shanghaiing aspects of their story. “Adrian is a very strange person, very theatrical. Nick is going to have a lot of fun playing him . . . and Bradley is sort of a heroic figure to some people. People march around with signs that say ‘Bradley’ on them,” Gilbert says.
The plot jumps backward and forward through time, with the affair playing out through a series of scenes that ask such questions as “What would happen if, when Adrian tried to expose Bradley, Bradley had tried to seduce him into changing his mind?”