Southwark Playhouse (****)
As society digs deeper into the wonders and consequences of the world wide web, more and more plays are beginning to throw up its seamier side.
Potential Difference – that is writer Rose Lewenstein and director Russell Bender – touch ever so slightly on the same area of Tim Price’s Teh Internet is Serious Business (Royal Court 2014) even to the extent of latching on to the same idea of bedroom teenage hackers who crack the systems of giant corporations and find themselves imprisoned.
But Lewenstein takes it one step further; her hacker is promptly engaged to be employed by an organisation going under the creepy name of Octopus – a company who using all the buzz words of today – `consumer choice’, `transparency’ – have commodified data. The more you share your data, the greater value, the more you earn in money terms.
Lewenstein is tackling some big issues here: cyber security, privacy, the ethics of the hidden reaches of the net and much more. The price of digitalisation, she seems to be saying, is eternal vigilance as well as a loss of human relations.
To a lay person like your reviewer, Lewenstein’s grasp of the nitty and grittier ends of cyber technology is mind-boggling. A long list of thank you’s indicate the depth of her research which emerge as two personal stories – one about the Octopus executive who loses his way in cyber wonderland and the other of a schoolgirl needing to penetrate the darker recesses of the web to obtain methadone for her addict mother and using a nerdish asocial school friend to do it.
How the two stories ultimately coincide brings a nice sense of circular conclusion if engineered a little too schematically. But Bender tells the story with wry comic strip invention and a super versatile cast whether they’re playing virtual PAs, gliding across the floor with computer frames or donning satin gloves.
Without the bleakness of Caryl Churchill at her most futuristically prophetic, Darknet nonetheless feels like another useful morality tale for our time that will hopefully send audiences away more thoughtful about the web’s implications and where and how we decide to share our personal information.
Darknet runs at the Southwark Playhouse to May 7, 2016
Review first published in Reviewsgate, April 2016
Jamie: Jim English
Steve/Mitch/ensemble: Robin Berry
Stacey/Charlotte/ensemble: Rosie Thomson
Gary/John/ensemble: Naveed Khan
Allen: Gyuri Sarossy
Kyla: Ella McLoughlin
Candy/Rachel/ensemble: Greer Dale-Foulkes
Director: Russell Bender
Designer: Mila Sanders
Lighting Designer: Katharine Williams
Sound Designer: Edward Lewis
Video Designer: Benjamin Walden
Movement Directors: Jennifer Jackson, Russell Bender
Creative Technologist: Henry Garner
Creative Associates: William Drew, Wendy Kibble
Dialect Coach: Luke Nicholson
Associate Producer: Kendall Masson
Presented by Potential Difference