'The Little Drummer Girl': Charlie makes her debut in the "theater of real" and she is perfect
Charlie lies, and lives through it, and she is almost like a character out of fiction who is completely living in the author's world.
Among the things that Park Chan-wook's adaptation of John Le Carre's 'The Little Drummer Girl' touches upon such as the Arab-Israel conflict, terrorism, and the symbolic use of art, "the theatre of real" found prominence in the second episode which aired on November 4 on BBC One.
The episode followed Charlie's (Florence Pugh) introduction to Marty's (Michael Shannon) script, which only intends to use Charlie as a pawn to bring down the Palestinian terrorist, Khalil, and her role as the smitten lover of Michel, which Becker suggests as an alternative to Salim, Khalil's brother.
Charlie is not aware of the big game she is being made a part of, but the moment she shares with Becker (Alexander Skarsgard) toward the end of the episode marks her "debut into the theatre of the real."
However, the line between drama and reality blurred when Becker said those words to Charlie. Throughout the first and the second episodes, the two characters have been drifting in and out of the script set out by Marty, according to which Becker is the tight-lipped, yet vulnerable terrorist, Michel, who has lured a dame along with him who is completely smitten by him.
As the dame in the play, Charlie is supposed to do everything "for love", and that is what she does.
Even before Charlie was introduced to the whole act by Marty, she was unknowingly a part of the reconstruction of reality which began the moment she set her foot on the stage, when she was being watched by a stranger wearing a gold watch.
Charlie finds the exact similar incidents being narrated to her when Becker is explaining the script, and it takes her only moments to wrap herself around this smitten woman who can do anything for a terrorist. This was proof enough that Charlie is the most suitable fit for the "theatre of the real", but this might cost her a lot.
In spite of being bold, Charlie is continuously driven by the necessity to be heard. She is ready to voice out her political opinions whenever asked for and does not hesitate from confessing her feelings when she is uncomfortable. But Charlie does not do that without improvising it in her own way. She can lie without being guilty of it; as a reader, she can spin out stories in the appropriate way in any given situation; but most of all, Charlie believes in her own lies. She, in fact, lives that lie. It does not take her long to act like the terrorist's partner, knowing that she would henceforth be identified as one.
She also makes use of her real-life props to re-imagine real-life events. For an instance, in the scene where she and Becker are in the car on the way to the location, Charlie pops out a cigarette to which Becker claims that his character would not want his beloved to smoke. Charlie immediately improvises the act. As a smoker herself, she knows that when someone denies you a fag you usually get irritated. She, skillfully, brought her own touch to the scene while smoking the cigarette, claiming that her character does not care if her lover wants her to smoke or not. Charlie's boldness was the encompassing aesthetic that helped her mingle with her characters.
Charlie had also recycled her own life-story while speaking with Marty, and the rest of the "crew". She does exactly what Carol Martin in her study about the theatre of real had suggested, "to reconsider the world around them on the basis of the theatrical experiences." As a well-read actor, Charlie had a broad imagination which often helped her skip in and out of her reality. She could easily convince someone by telling them a heartbreaking story of her past, which probably never happened to her. However, Charlie's real caliber in lying about herself lies heavily on the fact that the girl believes herself to be a part of that world.
Charlie does not want to realize the difference between drama and reality, even though she is warned that it can be harmful. She honestly does not understand the political ideologies that she claims to be inclined towards, but she genuinely cares for them, as any ignorant rebel would. That is why when Becker asks her to "prove that you are as special as I believe", Charlie for the first time is hit by the actual sense of reality. Although the episode ends there, we can assume that probably Charlie by now has got a hint of what awaits her. Even if she still is not guessing that this is part of a big conspiracy, she has probably made a guess that things might go beyond her control from this point on.
Charlie has been introduced to the theatre of real, and here onwards her tendency to blur the line between drama and reality will be the biggest advantage to the plan.
Marty always knew that Charlie could lie -- he knew that ever since he saw her at the audition. He was aware that Charlie could lie just as convincingly as he could, but maybe she is still not well-equipped to detect another liar like himself. Marty, being the speculative person that he is, did not take much time in picking up Charlie's weak points, such as her pretense as a leftist only to be a part of a revolution, her re-imagination of life in the way that she would have wanted it to be, and most of all her skilful dilution into a character without leaving any traces of herself.
Marty always knew that Charlie would make just the perfect heroine for the theatre of the real, and in the last episode, Charlie proved it to him that he has made the right choice. There are times when even as the audience, it becomes difficult for us to figure if the girl is actually lying or telling the truth. She is like the "pixie maniac" only with a heavier shade of a "spy". It wouldn't be wrong if we presume that sometimes even Charlie does not realize the difference between drama and reality, but while it has given her the role of a lifetime, it might just be the last act that she ever performs.
'The Little Drummer Girl' airs on Sundays on BBC One, at 9 pm.