The young James Graham is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to script writing, with his last play, This House, garnering much critical acclaim.
The uniqueness of the play becomes apparent on entering The Donmar when everyone is asked to keep their mobile phones switched on, albeit in silent mode, and are handed a laminated sheet parodying aeroplane safety instruction cards. And it doesn’t end there. The back wall of the stage is turned into a giant screen, which eventually allows us to see what the young man sitting upstage right is plugging into his computer. This turns out to be a very useful device in visually explaining the techno bits of the play, of which there are several. It also soon becomes apparent that we, the audience will spend part of the evening interacting with the actors on stage. Curiouser and curiouser.
Privacy, cleverly directed by Jose Rourke, is very topical, dealing as it does with the way we voluntarily upload loads of information about ourselves on a daily basis, often not realizing what this can and does mean. Big Brother in Internet form. So far, so spooky, especially when various facts are highlighted of which I for one knew nothing. And so thought provoking because of course security is of the utmost importance since 9/11 but at what cost to our privacy?
James Graham tackles this tricky subject by centering his play round a self-effacing playwright with relationship hang-ups who needs to ask questions in order to write the play he’s being badgered to write. During the course of the evening he encounters journalists, politicians, lawyers, defenders of civil liberties and the like, variously played by members of the cast. Their thoughts on the threat posed by the omnipresent scrutiny of us all via social media, regular internet shopping etc is for the most part verbatim and sometimes tricky to comprehend. But, despite the seriousness of the subject under discussion, the play does possess a lightness of touch and is, at times, hugely entertaining.
The entertainment factor is cranked up by the casting of the excellent Gunnar Cauthery, Paul Chahidi, Jonathan Coy, Joshua McGuire, Nina Sosanya and Michelle Terry. They skillfully switch between characters, real and imagined and Lucy Osborne’s clever techno screen works a treat.
The final piece of audience participation takes place during the final few minutes of the play when we’re sworn to secrecy about something we’ve seen. And that’s all I’m going to say.