Thursday, 9 October 2014

Teh Internet is Serious Business at the Royal Court

Hi my name's Jessica and I'm an addict. My drug is the Internet in all its forms. It's Twitter and Facebook, Flickr and Instagram, LinkedIn, Google, Wikipedia and Pinterest. It's blogging, it's tumblr.  It's memes and virals, YouTube videos and Buzzfeed. I binge and purge on blogs and share, share, share. I spew my soul on Blogspot, I repeat code with glee. A share, a like, a follow, a retweet and I tremble with pleasure. Take me away from my phone or some sort of virtual hug and my fingers itch, knees weak, arms are sweaty. Take me away from my wifi and GPS and I know not where I am.... 

Seriously though, the Internet, is a serious business and most of us know it, though we regularly ignore it. Through the collective efforts of Tim Price's script and Hamish Pirie’s production, the Teh Internet is Serious Business at The Royal Court, tries to illustrate where we are with the www. 

This play is very hard to describe in any any sensicle way. The basic story is two teenage boys who get mixed up in hard core hacking communities online, forming the - based on reality - Anonymous network and Lulzsec. They go on to take down various hactivist targets from The Church of Scientology, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Tunisian government and the CIA. By the end of it, most of them get caught. 

The intelligence of this play though, is not necessarily in the narrative, but how it manages to illustrate the Internet in all its freak-show glory in physical form. From Pedo-Bear to Grumpy Cat and Socially Awkward Penguin, memes and virtual ideas dance on the stage with the hacks' virtual personas. So many internet journeys are performed in front of our eyes, some so subtle you may miss them. 

A dead girl being trolled on Facebook, a YouTube video going viral, accidentally stumbling upon a porn site, conversations on Twitter and in chat rooms are all performed in hysterical, energetic pandemonium by the tight, bright ensemble cast.

A scene showing the hacking of the Tunisian government's site is visualised as a Mission Impossible-style operation; cast members playing the role of code dance on the stage between "laser beams" as the hackers shout html code at them, eventually crashing the site. 

Plenty of recognisable consumer brand logos and names are used, placing the production well within the audiences comfortable parameters of understanding, flashed about as they are.

The real merit of the piece for me was that it illustrates the complete and uncontrollable extremes of the World Wide Web in its current form. Bringing such joy, hiding such evil, enabling activism and protest and giving the youth a voice. The Internet allows such freedom and creativity, but it is also oh so easy to take it too far and do we really trust the human race enough? Compared with the last internet themed stage play I saw, The Nether, also on the Royal Court, this was a lot more rounded in its observations.

Additionally, I left the theatre with a sense of foreboding and as another wave of nude photos broke today, I can't help but think it's going to get worse before it gets better. The problems is that it is still all new to us and there's no moral code or legal accountability. No one really knows what the hell they're doing. We are all feeling our way.

Who knows what will happen, but I will say one thing that I learnt from the play, don't use the same password for everything or you could end up giving your life away for free. 

Teh Internet is Serious Business is at The Royal Court until 25th October 2014. Book tickets here

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