Teh Internet is Serious Business

Royal Court Theatre

© Johan Persson

© Johan Persson

The cast list takes some deciphering – which is nothing compared to the show just opened at the Royal Court’s Downstairs Theatre. I’ve just seen the future and I hardly understood a word of it.

This is nothing to be proud of. It’s simply that the world of the internet and of hackers is one that thus far has only come within my compass insofar as I tolerate it for everyday business, emails and simple transactions.

Until last night, I knew nothing of memes. Pedobear was unknown to me. So too Socially Awkward Penguin or Sad Storm Trooper for that matter. Anonymous and LulzSec meant little or nothing. The fact that two teenage hackers had hacked into major British and USA institutions and had been sent to prison had registered. But not with any deep comprehension as to its implications.

Thanks to Tim Price (The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning; Protest Song about the Occupy movement) and director Hamish Pirie’s extraordinary neon lit, mother-board backed, all dancing, all singing production, I now see a little more clearly if still with some difficulty.

What I’m absolutely certain of is that Pirie’s production is ground-breaking as, to an extent, was the National’s Jerry Springer: the Opera a decade ago. It’s certainly a milestone in Vicky Featherstone’s Royal Court tenure, creating as it does a new theatrical language in a show that speaks to, and of, the next generation and its cultural tropes in all their messy, irresponsible, unrepentant and rebellious spirit.

And, for all its dark incomprehensibility and anarchic chaos, too, I couldn’t help warming in the end to the two youngsters, Jake Davis (a consultant on this show) and Mustafa who sitting in their bedrooms – and now in prison cells – made the establishment quail and shudder. The mischievous look they exchange says it all.

On the way to that look, the story of teenage precocity, their excitement with the workings of computers all become dramatised and physicalised in a display of prodigious versatility on the part of the company whether bursting out of side-doors
and trap doors as computer icons, website signatures or even, real life mothers and police officers.  Amazing

First published in Reviewsgate in Sept 2014