Teh Internet is Serious Business
If you are reading these words, you are online right now. But who is looking over your shoulder? The Big Brother of the internet means that we can now be tracked and hacked, trolled and bullied, and otherwise manipulate and be manipulated. And one of the many cautionary tales of the internet is how an individual, or group of individuals working together, can hold power over great corporations or even massive intelligence agencies like the CIA and FBI by getting into their computer systems.
It's a big, sprawling subject, and Tim Price's bustling, ramshackle play tries to take it all in with an epic trawl into some of the characters behind Anonymous, the "Hacktivist movement", and the campaigns of its offshoot LulzSec collective against, amongst others, the Church of Scientology (and Tom Cruise, one of its leading poster boys), the Westboro Baptist Church (with their notorious 'God hates fags' mission) and Fox Television.
The liberal audience naturally give each of those a cheer, but where do we draw the line? Who's making sure that the hacktivists don't step over it? And who are they, anyway?
The play revolves around two of its teenage schoolboy loners – Mustafa, a South Londoner, and Jake, from the Shetlands – as they are drawn into this alternative online universe, in which they suddenly acquire an (new) identity, power and control.
The play, though, too regularly spins out of control itself. It criss-crosses between the real and virtual worlds with confusing leaps, probably intentional but ultimately wearying. Hamish Pirie's vigorous production, with its cast of 15 actors, is often a big, unruly mess.
It's certainly bold, but I'm afraid that I tuned out of it more often than I tuned in.
"Much of what is said may, to the untutored ear, sound almost like Jabberwocky gibberish. But there’s a beauty in the mystery – computer code is recited like poetry, while actors dance and flex in tune with different keyboard functions."
Dominic Cavendish for The Telegraph
"I can only say that, as an analogue-trained hack, I found its portrait of a world of digital activism both enlightening and unexpectedly touching."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"Precocious, puerile, thought-provoking and disreputable, Price’s play has everything it needs to go viral."
Patrick Marmion for The Daily Mail
"... this is a timely piece, entertaining and unsettling."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard